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A N H I S T O R I C A L R E V I E W O F 






Commerce and industry are the best mines of a nation. 


Commerce is the greatest combiner of all the activities in the world. 

— Cahl Ritteh. 



; *,M?i t - o ~ ' ?*•■*•* 

r f i 2 










Edited by Frank H. Severance 





Vice-President HON. HENRY W. HILL 

Secretary-Treasurer FRANK H. SEVERANCE 


Term expiring January, 1909. 

Robert W. Day, Henry A. Richmond, 

Hugh Kennedy, Charles W. Goodyeak, 

G. Barrett Rich. 

Hon. Henry W. Hili., 
J. N. Larned, 

Term expiring January, 1910. 

Henry R. Rowland, 
Charles R. Wilson, 
J. J. McWilliams. 

Andrew Langdon, 
Frank H. Severance, 

Term expiring January, IQll, 

Jakes Sweeney, 
George A. Stringer, 
Ogden P. Letchworth. 

Term expiring January, 1912. 

Albert H. Briggs, M. D., 
R. R. Hefford, 

Lee H. Smith, M. D. 
Willis O. Chapin, 

Loran L. Lewis, Jr. 

The Mayor of Buffalo, the Corporation Counsel, the Comptroller, Superin- 
tendent of Education, President of the Board of Park Commissioners, and 
President of the Common Council, are also ex-ofncio members of the Board of 
Managers of the Buffalo Historical Society. 




♦Millard Fillmore, 1862 to 1867 

♦Henry W. Rogers, 1868 

♦Rev. Albert T. Chester, D. D., 1869 

♦Orsamus H. Marshall, 1870 

♦Hon. Nathan K. Hall, 1871 

♦William H. Greene, 1872 

♦Orlando Allen, 1873 

♦Oliver G. Steele, 1874 

♦Hon. James Sheldon, 1875 and 18S6 

♦William C. Bryant, 1876 

*Capt. E. P. Dorr, 1877 

Hon. William P. Letch worth, 1878 

William H. H. Newman 1879 and 1885 

♦Hon. Elias S. Hawley, 1880 

♦Hon. James M. Smith, 1881 

♦William Hodge, 1882 

♦William Dana Fobes, 1883 and 1884 

♦Emmor Haines, 1887 

♦James Tillinghast, 1888 

♦William KL Allen, 1889 

♦George S. Hazard, 1890 and 1892 

♦Joseph C. Greene, M. D., 1891 

♦Julius H. Dawes, 1893 

Andrew Langdon, 1894 to 1908 

* Deceased. 


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f T" H HE present volume is the outgrowth of a study which Henry W. 
•*• Hill undertook to contribute to a collection of papers, to be 
prepared for the Buffalo Historical Society, dealing with various 
phases of the history of New York State waterways. As he became 
engrossed in the subject, Senator Hill was led to extend the scope of 
his work, until he had finally accomplished a comprehensive survey 
of the whole history of the State canals. 

Nothing of the character of the present work has before been 
written. Narratives there are, it is true, of some phases of our 
canal history, especially of the original construction of the Erie 
canal. While the present work has been in preparation, two note- 
worthy contributions to canal literature have been published: Noble 
A. Whitford's "History of the Canal System of the State of New 
York," etc., issued in 1906 as a supplement to the annual report of 
the State Engineer; and A. Barton Hepburn's "Artificial Water- 
ways and Commercial Development," etc. (N. Y. 1909.) Valuable 
as are both of these works, neither of them performs the particular 
service which Senator Hill has accomplished. He has written, not 
merely a history of the State canals, but a history from the view- 
point of a legislator who has been largely instrumental in bringing 
about the results which he chronicles. 

Before entering upon his long career in the State Legislature, 
Mr. Hill was elected a delegate from the 31st Senate district to the 
New York Constitutional convention of 1S94.. In the deliberations 
of that body, which gave to the State its present revised Constitu- 
tion, Mr. Hill bore an active part, especially as a member of the 
committees on suffrage, education and civil service. His most no- 
table work, however, was his advocacy of the enlargement of the 
Erie, Champlain and Oswego canals. Of that phase of his labors, 
Charles Z. Lincoln, in his "Constitutional History of New York," 
says : 

"The most elaborate and comprehensive speech on canals in the 
convention was delivered by Henry W. Hill of Buffalo. Mr. Hill 
had given the subject long, patient, and thorough study, and had, 
apparently, examined it from every point of view. The speech is 
replete with historical information, and with valuable statistics 


showing the development of the canal policy in almost every age 
and country. It contained a general argument in favor of canal 
improvement, and of such constitutional changes as would readily 
permit this improvement ; and he fortified his argument by numer- 
ous facts, figures and historical references to show the value and 
importance of the canal as a factor in the development of the State, 
and of its probable continued usefulness if a liberal policy should 
be adopted. The student of the economic relations of canals will 
find here the whole subject so carefully considered and so clearly 
arranged that little need be sought elsewhere. Mr. Hill thought it 
would be unwise to attempt the construction of a ship canal across 
the State. He said New York had taken her place at the head of the 
list of states as a consequence of the construction of our canals, and 
whether she could retain that position would depend on her attitude 
toward her great waterways. He urged the preservation and en- 
largement of the canals, both as a check on railroad charges, and 
as an important feature of our commercial prosperity; saying that 
"we ought to remove the present constitutional limitations prohibit- 
ing the creation of a debt for their improvement, and provide at 
once for such improvement." 

Mr. Hill's speeches and continued efforts in the convention were 
largely instrumental in bringing about the adoption of section 10 
of article 7 of the Constitution, which was in part formulated by 
him, authorizing the improvement of the canals "in such manner 
as the Legislature shall provide by law" and for the raising of funds 

His participation in the Constitutional convention of 1894 was 
Mr. Hill's first public service in this State. It won him wide recog- 
nition as an advocate of canal improvement. That recognition has 
steadily grown, throughout his subsequent service in the Legislature. 
He was for five successive terms, 1896 to 1900, a member of the 
Assembly, and since 1900 has been without interruption and still 
is a member of the Senate from the 48th district. His is one of the 
longest terms of unbroken legislative membership in the records of 
the State. 

Known as a "canal champion" when he entered the Legislature, 
he has never ceased to be one, both in that body, and before the 
people of the State. In the following pages he shows the part he 
has borne in establishing and furthering New York's present canal 
policy; but he has frequently minimized and passed lightly over his 
own share in debates, etc., while conscientiously recognizing the ef- 
forts of his associates. He had personal supervision in the Assembly 
of the barge canal survey bill. In the Senate, he ably supported the 
canal referendum bill of 1903, introduced by his colleague, Senator 
George A. Davis ; and was one of its most active and efficient advo- 


cates before the people, to the very eve of the November election 
of that year. It was the most gigantic bonding proposition ever 
submitted to the voters of any State. No one did more than Sena- 
tor Hill to arouse a sentiment favorable to the measure. 

He introduced and secured the enactment of the ninety-nine 
million dollar canal bonding law of 1906. In 1902 he had formulated 
a proposed new amendment to article 7 of the Constitution, known 
as section 1*1, providing for the application of the surplus moneys 
in the treasury to the liquidation of the bonded indebtedness of the 
State. This amendment passed the Legislature of 1902 and 1903, 
and was approved by popular vote in 1905. In 1903 he drafted and 
introduced a proposed amendment to section 4 of article 7 of the 
Constitution, extending the bonded period from 18 to 50 years, 
which passed the Legislature in 1903 and 1905, and was approved 
by popular vote in the latter year, as was also an amendment which 
he formulated to section 2 of article 6 of the Constitution. 

It is not the present purpose to touch upon the many services of 
Senator Hill, rendered to his constituency and to the common- 
wealth; but chiefly to recognize his peculiar fitness as historian of 
the canals; especially of the latest phase of canal policy to which 
New York State is now pledged. 

That Senator Hill writes as an ardent advocate of that policy, 
and a thorough believer in its wisdom, is apparent on a perusal of 
his pages; but no reader is likely to accuse him of unfairness in his 
presentation of facts. He has been at pains to give due recognition 
to the opposition to the barge canal measures, whether that opposi- 
tion was expressed in the Legislature, by citizens v/ho may or may 
not have been influenced by railroad or other interests supposedly 
hostile to the canals, or by the press. Indeed, this impartial record 
of the anti-canal forces and methods employed in the memorable 
campaign of 1903, is one of the features which gives to the present 
chronicle a peculiar value. 

In undertaking the present work, as a contribution to the Publi- 
cations of the Buffalo Historical Society, Senator Hill at first 
planned merely a short paper which, with contributions from other 
pens, was to make up a volume devoted to various phases of the 
history of canals and waterway improvement in New York State. 
The subject was not lacking in aspects of local importance; indeed, 
it would be difficult to find a phase of our history more vital to 
Western New York and Buffalo. It had, moreover, timeliness, inas- 
much as the construction of the barge canal, and the various engi- 
neering, industrial and financial problems arising in connection with 
it, were more and more enlisting the keen interest of the public. As 


the author progressed with his work, his desire for thoroughness led 
him far beyond the bounds originally proposed. Some delay was 
consequent; but the result is a full presentation of a chapter of New 
York State history — the story of the barge canals — not elsewhere 
written ; and although it is here written for the first time, the present 
volume is likely to stand as the definitive history of the subject. 

Appended to the principal narrative in this volume, are two of 
Senator Hill's canal speeches. For years he has been indefatigable 
both as a speaker and writer on this subject, one noteworthy paper 
from his pen being the article on "Waterways of the United States," 
in the "Encyclopaedia Americana," prepared at the request of the 
publishers when Mr. Hill was chairman of the Senate Committee on 
Commerce and Navigation. 

Certain topics related to the general history of New York State 
waterways, as for instance, the use of steam on the canals, are de- 
ferred for separate treatment, probably in the next volume of our 

On pages 47 to 72 of the present volume, Senator Hill has given 
some account of the early lock navigation undertakings. In this 
connection it may be noted that among the unpublished Schuyler 
manuscripts in the Lenox Library, New York, are preserved cor- 
respondence, accounts and other papers which throw some light on 
the operations of those companies. Papers noted in the collection 
include a list of stockholders of the Western Inland Navigation 
Company; report of a survey for the canal at Whitehall; terms for 
digging, etc. ; and letters to Gen. Schuyler, 1792-93, from Barent 
Bleeker, treasurer of the Northern Inland Lock Navigation Com- 
pany; Tobias R. Schuyler, William Weston, George Scriba, Reuben 
Schu} r ler, Gerard Walton, Horace Seymour, Peter Colt, Tench Coxe, 
Simeon De Witt, John Porteous, Paul Busti and others. There is 
a letter from Gen. Schuyler to Gov. Thomas Chittenden of Vermont 
relative to "opening a canal and lock navigation from the tide of 
Hudson's river to Lake Champlain," which was laid before the 
General Assembly, October, 1793, and referred to a committee which 
recommended the purchase of twenty shares in the company. Other 
letters from Gen. Schuyler are to David Rittenhouse, Tench Coxe 
(Apr. 3, 1793), and other engineers and practical men of the time. 
There are Gen. Schuyler's directions as to keeping construction ac- 
counts; field-books of various surveys, including one of the canal 
and dykes at the falls of the Mohawk (Little Falls), probably made 
in 1792; a letter from Paul Busti of the Holland Land Company to 
the president and directors of the Western Inland Lake Navigation 
Company; and — among many papers of value in this connection— a 



document giving the state of transportation from Montreal to King- 
ston in 1796. The correspondence runs from Jan. 25, 1792, to Oct. 8, 
1803, and the collection includes 743 items. Ten letters of the 
original collection, marked in the card catalogue of the library, as 
"retained by Miss Schuyler," are from Gen. Philip Schuyler to 
William Weston, John Porteous, Mr. Philip Schuyler and others, 
Jan. 16, 1792, to May 8, 1793. In this connection may be mentioned 
a letter published in the New York Journal and Patriotic Register, 
July 24, 1793, signed "Marcellus" (supposed to be Chancellor Robert 
R. Livingston) in which a bitter attack was made on Gen. Schuyler, 
holding him accountable for alleged evils in connection with the 
Northern and Western companies. 

Reference has been made (pp. 67-69) to the report on Roads 
and Canals made by Albert Gallatin as Secretary of the Treasury, 
April 4, 1808, and communicated to the Senate, of which George 
Clinton was at that time presiding officer. It is probably the most 
comprehensive survey of the state of the roads and canals of the 
United States at that time that has been made. As printed in 
American State Papers, "Miscellaneous, Volume I," published in 
Washington in 1834, it fills 197 folio pages. 

Secretary Gallatin reviews the status of all canals under construc- 
tion and of many roads under construction and projected. A most 
valuable feature of this report is the collection of letters and docu- 
ments appended to it. These include (1) a letter from Thomas 
Eddy to Samuel Osgood, dated New York, October 29, 1807, setting 
forth the plans and operations of the Northern Inland Lock Naviga- 
tion Company; (2) the detailed examination which was made under 
the direction of the Northern Company, of the Hudson river. This 
report is dated Albany, October 30, 1792; (3) letter from Thomas 
Eddy to Samuel Osgood, dated New York, October 29, 1807, review- 
ing the early operations of the Western Inland Lock Navigation 
Company. Appended to this letter are the first and second reports 
of that company; (4) the Act of the New York Legislature passed 
March 30, 1792, for establishing and opening lock navigation in the 
State; (5) the amendment to that Act, passed December 22, 1792; 
(6; a further amendment to the law relative to lock navigation 
passed March 9, 1793; (7) a letter from Daniel Penfield to Samuel 
Osgood, dated New York, January 19, 1808, stating the result of 
surveys and examinations along the Niagara river from Fort Schios- 
ser to the Devil's Hole, with a view of constructing a canal around 
the falls. 

Of these documents, the first annual report of the Inland Lock 
Navigation Company, in 1796, and the accompanying data compiled 


by William Weston, will be found with some comment in Volume II, 
Publications of the Buffalo Historical Society. The second report 
of the Western Inland Lock Navigation Company, apparently a much 
more scarce document than even the rare first report, will be included 
in the succeeding volume. Its value will be apparent to any one who 
reads it, for it gives details of the condition of the work and of the 
general attempt to establish a navigable waterway across the State, 
which apparently are not elsewhere to be found. 

Secretary Gallatin, for the most part, contented himself with 
summarizing the reports which he gathered from many sources, with 
little by way of recommendation. But it was a period when national 
aid was being sought in every quarter, both for canal and road con- 
struction, nor was it until eight years later, when the energy of 
De Witt Clinton prevailed against all opponents and established the 
New York canal system on a new basis, that the undertaking was 
really entered upon as a State enterprise, independent of Federal aid. 

A notable group of papers, most of them written at the solicita- 
tion of the Buffalo Historical Society, by men who have been in- 
fluential in determining the canal policy of the State, will constitute 
the succeeding volume of this series, now in press and soon to be 
issued. Among these are : "The Canal Improvement Union," by 
Frank S. Gardner, secretary of the Canal Improvement Union, sec- 
retary of the New York Board of Trade and Transportation ; an 
account of the State Commerce conventions of 1899, 1900 and 1901 ; 
"New York City's Part in the Reconstruction of the State's Water- 
ways," by Gustav H. Schwab, chairman of the Canal Improvement 
State Committee; "The New York Produce Exchange and Canal 
Enlargement," by Henry B. Hebert, chairman of the Canal Asso- 
ciation of Greater New York; "The Inception of the Barge Canal 
Project," by Maj. Gen. Francis Vinton Greene, chairman of the 
Committee on Canals of New York State," etc. ; "The United 
States Government and the New York State Canals," by Col. 
Thomas W. Symons, U. S. A., of the Advisory Board of Consult- 
ing Engineers for the Improvement of State Canals; with much 
other related matter of historical importance. 

The succeeding issue of this series will also contain the memorial 
referred to on page 86 of the present volume, and other material 
bearing upon this important phase of New York State history. In 
its appendices, the proceedings of the Buffalo Historical Society for 
1908 will aopear in usual form. 

F. H. S. 



Officers of the Society in 

List of Presidents of the Society iv 



Introduction vit 

I. Early Use of Natural Waterways 3 

II. Development of Inland Trade by the Dutch . . 14 

III. Trade Routes and Topography 21 

IV. Earliest Improvements of Waterways 36 

V. Further Evolution — The Inland Lock Naviga- 
tion Companies 47 

vi. gouverneur morris and other originators ... 63 

VII. The ''Grand" Canal takes Shape . 72 

VIII. Legislative Progress — The Decisive Vote .... 81 

IX. The Construction Period 95 

X. Problems and Controversies 102 

XI. Resources and Revenues 118 

XII. Further Development — Political Phases .... 127 

XIII. Engineering Problems — The Lateral Canals . . 140 

XIV. Enlargement and Reconstruction 151 

XV. "Canal Frauds" and Investigations 166 

XVI. Natural Waterways — Abolition of Tolls .... 177 

XVII. Promotion of Various Canal Interests 197 

XVIII. Some Conventions — The Canals and the Con- 
stitution 217 

XIX. Enlargement Measures — The Ship Canal Propo- 
sition 231 

XX. New York's Decline of Commerce and its Remedy 239 

XXL Legislative History of the Barge Canal .... 251 

XXII. Progress under the State's New Canal Policy . 265 

XXIII. Legislative Strife over the Canal Measures . . 284 

XXIV. A Long Fight — The Whole State Aroused . . . 292 
XXV. Passage of the Referendum Measure 306 

XXVI. The Canal Campaign of 1903 340 

XXVII. Men and Measures — Progress and Prospects . . 304 


xiv contents. 



On the Canal Amendments in the Constitutional Con- 
vention, Sept. io, 1894 433 

On the Canal Improvement Referendum Measure . . . 469 

Errata 514 

Index 515 


Portrait, Henry W. Hill Frontispiece 

Map, Barge Canals and Earlier Constructions . . . . Op. p. 3 





State Senator, and Vice President of the Buffalo Historical Society. 

I. Early Use of Natural Waterways. 

A critical examination of the history of New York will 
disclose the predominance of the commercial spirit of its 
people, who derived their first impressions in the broad 
domain of statecraft from the Dutch. Its laws and institu- 
tions are an expression of this spirit and the embodiment of 
the political maxim of Hamilton, its greatest creative genius, 
that "a prosperous commerce is perceived and acknowledged 
by all enlightened statesmen to be the most useful as well as 
the most productive source of national wealth." 

The early institution of the aggressive policies of the 
Dutch in the Province of New York gave it a commercial 
impetus similar to that of the Netherlands in the sixteenth 
and seventeenth centuries ; and the modification of these 
policies thereafter by the English did not destroy their 
effectiveness. The commercial spirit of Great Britain, then 
reaching out to compass the entire globe, rather intensified 
the interest of the people of this Province in extending their 
domestic and foreign commerce to include a wider range of 
subjects, and to other countries, than those to which they 
were limited under the Dutch regime. The successive occu- 
pations of this territory by the aborigines, the Dutch and 


English, developed its domestic and expanded its foreign 
commerce, until at the Revolution the latter was extensive 
enough to provoke the jealousy of the mother country. 

This commercial development was made possible at first 
only by the utilization of the natural waterways of the 
Province, and later by the establishment of navigable water 
communication between the Great Lakes on the west and 
tide-water on the east. It was foreseen that this would 
enable New York to do much of the carrying trade of sev- 
eral interior states and to control to some extent their domes- 
tic and foreign commerce. This would add immensely to 
the domestic and foreign commerce of New York. It has 
so proved. Furthermore, the volume of tonnage passing 
through this State over its artificial waterways was so much 
greater than was anticipated by their projectors, that it 
became necessary, in order to meet the increasing demands 
made upon them, to enlarge their capacity on two occasions; 
and now a third enlargement is in progress. An account of 
the origin, extension and improvement of the State's water- 
ways together with the resulting benefits therefrom to the 
State forms an essential part of its history. 

It is my purpose in this paper to review that part of the 
State's history. It may properly be prefaced by an historical 
review of transportation over the lakes, rivers and other 
natural waterways of the State. This necessitates our 
tracing from its aboriginal occupation the efforts and 
achievements of the peoples of the Province and the State 
of New York through three centuries of its history. Such a 
review, however, must deal with events more or less discon- 
nected, owing to the frequent hostile invasions of this terri- 
tory prior to the Revolution and the isolated data relating to 
the period. These invasions were often predatory and inter- 
cepted the usual routes of trade and travel, to the annoyance 
of the inhabitants and the serious interference with their 
early commercial relations. The data relating to the aborig- 
inal and early Dutch and English trade relations of the 
Province are scattered through early Dutch, French and 
English papers and are incomplete; but from what exists, 
some conception may be formed of the extent of the use of 


the lakes, rivers and other waterways at that time. This 
is an important phase of the history of transportation in this 
State and naturally precedes the era of canal construction, 
which is to be reviewed later in this paper. 

The foresight of the Dutch, English and American 
pioneers in this Province and citizens of this State in dis- 
cerning the adaptability of its topography to waterway con- 
struction and in taking advantage of this and of its unique 
position between the Great Lakes on the west and the 
Atlantic Ocean on the east, across whose territory must 
ultimately pass much of the vast tonnage of the states bor- 
dering on these bodies of water, was as keen and compre- 
hensive as that which dominated the policy of the Greeks in 
taking possession of and colonizing for commercial purposes 
the most strategic places in and about the Mediterranean 

From the first occupation of this territory by the Dutch, 
as already stated, the genius of its people has been essen- 
tially commercial, as contradistinguished from that which 
is agricultural, or industrial; although the people of this 
State have excelled in both these latter fields of human 
endeavor. The commercial spirit, however, has predomi- 
nated over the others and its cities have become great com- 
mercial centers, far outranking ancient Tyre, said to be 
"the crowning city [of Phoenicia], whose merchants were 
princes, whose traffickers were the honorable of the earth." 
The history of the commercial development of this State 
would fill several volumes and only certain phases of it are 
presented in these papers. Some of the contributors to the 
present volume had an active part in the movement, which 
will result in the construction of a system of barge canals 
from the Hudson to Lake Erie and Ontario on the west and 
to Lake Champlain on the north. The Buffalo Historical 
Society is thus fortunate in being able to publish the original 
papers of some of the prominent participants in one of the 
largest projects ever undertaken in this or any other State. 

This subject has so dominated the thought of successive 
generations and it is so interwoven through all the important 
Colonial, Provincial and State legislation, that it would be 


presumptuous on my part to claim that this or any other 
paper is complete in itself. I trust, however, that a resume 
of the successive steps taken and a summary of the principal 
constitutional measures and legislative acts in the movement 
may serve to keep alive the interest of the people in a great 
public improvement, which is regarded by students of trans- 
portation problems as indispensable to the State's commer- 
cial supremacy. This is especially so since the renaissance 
of interest in canal construction and in transportation by 
water in Europe and America is now as marked as was the 
Italian Renaissance of learning under the Medici family, 
stimulated by the spirit of discovery and exploration of the 
fifteenth century. 

For three fourths of a century, through their canals, the 
people of this State have done an appreciable part of the 
Carrying trade of seven great inland states and thereby 
added millions of dollars annually to their wealth. The 
evolution of transportation over the State's waterways from 
the Indian canoe to the modern thousand ton barge has been 
going on for three centuries. No one will undertake to say 
just how much earlier the aborigines utilized the water 
courses of the territory now comprising New York, lor no 
one knows whether the league of the Five Nations was 
formed as far back as I400-I450,as stated by Lewis Morgan, 
or an hundred years later ; but, whenever it occurred, it is 
certain that from the time when the "Hodenosaunee" or "the 
people of the Long Mouse" migrated from the territory 
north of Montreal up the St. Lawrence with their primitive 
belongings in canoes, crossed Lake Ontario and settled in 
central New York along the lakes named after them, the 
natural water-courses of this State have been uninterrupt- 
edly utilized. The eastern door of the Long House was in 
the keeping of the Mohawks in the vicinity of Albany, 
while the western door was guarded by the Senecas of the 
Genesee valley and on the shores of Lake Erie; and after 
the Tuscaroras were added to the confederacy in 1714, by 
the latter nation also, who formed the outer guard in Ni- 
agara County. The Central Council was with the Onon- 
dagas, south of Syracuse. 


In a poem entitled "Onondaga Castle" the Six Nations 
are thus described: 

"Proud rulers of the far-extended north, 
Their war-song waked each echoing woody dell, 
With dreadful note of wild, untutored war, 
And on a thousand lakes of silver tide, 
Or deep majestic streams, their hostile fleets 
Poured silent forth, t' avenge the mutual wrong, 
And wreak a dreadful vengeance on the foe." 

East of the Long House, near the head waters of the 
Hudson, dwelt the Mohicans. Still farther east on the 
banks of the Connecticut were the Hohegans, or river 
Indians. These latter and other tribes occupying eastern 
New York were said to belong to the Algonquin family, 
which Champlain found in possession of the St. Lawrence 
valley upon his arrival in 1608. Prior to the Iroquois Con- 
federacy the Algonquin family occupied territory southeast 
and northeast of xhe Hudson, and the Huron-Iroquois 
families extended northwest into Canada and southwest 
into Pennsylvania and Ohio. Long before its discovery, 
Lake Champlain had been the battleground of the Algonquin 
and Iroquois nations, and both the lake and its outlet were 
called after the latter nation. The Indians informed Samuel 
Champlain that the mountains on the east belonged to the 
Iroquois, and that the large islands at the north end of the 
lake were formerly occupied by the same tribe. Most of the 
lakes and rivers of New York take their names from the 
Indian tribes, which had settled along their shores and on 
their banks. The establishment of the Iroquois Confed- 
eracy as well as the migration and intercourse of the various 
nations with each other are evidences of their intercommuni- 
cation by water. The use of canoes on the lakes and rivers 
of the State and the well-beaten carrying-places, such as that 
at Cohoes, that at Little Falls and that at Wood creek, are 
also evidences that the aborigines, long before the advent 
of the white man into this territory, anticipated him in the 
use of water transportation from lakes Champlain and 
George and the Hudson river on the east to lakes Oneida, 


Ontario, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca and Erie on the west, 
interrupted only by short carrying-places. This was a most 
charming succession of natural waterways through fertile 
valleys, teeming with wild animals and clad in the primeval 
forests, vocal with the songs of birds. This was a paradise 
for the aborigines. 

"The woods were filled so full with song, 
There seemed no room for sense of wrong," 

Sings the poet David Gray: 

". . . by these else untrodden shores they stood, 
Embodied spirits of the solitude. 
No hoary legend of the past declares 
Through what uncounted years our home was theirs, 
How oft they hailed, new glittering in the West, 
The moon, a phantom-white canoe, at rest 
In deeps of purple twilight — this alone 
Of all their vanished story has not flown." 

It is quite remarkable that nations given over to so 
migratory and precarious a life as that of the aboriginies, 
were able to establish and maintain routes of trade and 
travel through this territory. 

Cadwallader Colden, a graduate of Edinburgh University 
in 1705, and afterwards Surveyor General and Lieutenant 
Governor and acting Governor of New York, and as such 
familiar with the topography of much of the Province, in 
the report of a committee of the Council held at New York, 
November 6, 1724, says that "goods were daily carried from 
this province to the Sennekes as well as to those Nations 
that lie nearer, by water all the way, except three miles (or 
in dry seasons, five miles) where the traders carry over land 
between the Mohawks river and Wood creek that runs into 
Oneida lake, without going near either the St. Lawrence 
river or any of the lakes upon which the French pass, which 
are entirely out of the way." The early explorers and the 
Dutch and English traders of New York found the Five 
Indian Nations in possession of much of the fair domain of 
the interior of the State and in easy communication with 


each other over its streams, rivers and lakes, which are so 
connected as to form almost a continuous system of natural 
waterways over a large part of its territory. Freely did 
the aborigines traverse these waters in their canoes, laden 
with the marketable products of the forests and the fields, 
which formed picturesque flotillas in those early days, when 
the French on the north and the Dutch and English settlers 
on the east and south were contending for the fur trade of 
the nations, comprising the Iroquois Confederacy. 

In the masterly defense of "an Act for encouragement of 
the Indian Trade and rendering it more effectual to the 
inhabitants of this Province and for prohibiting of the 
selling Indian Goods to the French/' passed in November, 
j 720, made by Cadwallader Colden, may be found a graphic 
portrayal of the distribution of the Five Indian Nations 
along the water-courses of central New York and of their 
access to the trading-houses of the Province, with whom 
it was not only feasible but advantageous to maintain exclu- 
sive trade relations as contemplated by the framers of that 
act. In his "Memorial concerning the Furr-Trade of the 
Province of New York," presented to Sir William Burnet. 
Captain General and Governor of the Province, under date 
of November, 1724, in describing the method of transpor- 
tation among the aborigines, he says : 

"The Method of carrying Goods upon the Rivers of North Amer- 
ica, into all the small Branches, and over Land, from the Branches 
of one River to the Branches of another, was learned from the In- 
dians, and is the only Method practicable through such large Forests 
and Deserts as the Traders pass thro', in carrying from one Nation 
to another, it is this ; the Indians make a long narrow Boat, made of 
the Bark of the Birch-tree, the Parts of which they join very- neatly. 
One of these Canoes that can carry a Dozen Men, can itself be easily 
carried upon two Men's Shoulders ; so that when they have gone as 
far by Water as they can (which is further than is easily to be im- 
agined, because their loaded Canoes don't sink six inches into the 
Water), they unload their Canoes, and carry both Goods and Canoes 
upon their Shoulders over Land, into the nearest Branch of the 
River they intend to follow. Thus, the French have an easy Com- 
munication with all the Countries bordering upon the River of St. 
Laurence, and its Branches, with all the Countries bordering upon 


these In-land Seas, and the Rivers which empty themselves into 
these Seas, and can thereby carry their Burdens of Merchandize thro' 
all these large Countries, which could not by any other means than 
Water-carriage be carried thro' so vast a Tract of Land. 

''This, however, but half finishes the View the French have, as 
to their Commerce in North-America. Many of the Branches of the 
River Misissippi come so near to the Branches of several of the 
Rivers which empty themselves into the great Lakes, that in several 
Places there is but a short Land-Carriage from the one to the other. 
As soon as they have got into the River Misissippi, they open to 
themselves as large a Field for Traffick in the southern Parts of 
North- America, as was before mentioned with respect to the North- 
ern Parts. If one considers the Length of this River, and its 
numerous Branches, he must say, That by means of this River, and 
the Lakes, there is opened to his View such a Scene of inland Naviga- 
tion as cannot be parallcl'd in any other Part of the World." 

Proceeding further in this most instructive Memorial 
he says: 

"From Albany the Indian Traders commonly carry their Goods 
sixteen Miles over Land to the Mohawks River at Schencchtady, the 
Charge of which Carriage is Nine Shillings, New York Money, or 
Five Shillings Sterling each Waggon-Load. From Schenechtady 
they carry them in Canoes up the Mohawks River, to the Carrying- 
place between the Mohawks River, and the River which runs into 
the Oneida Lake; which carrying-place between is only three 
Miles long, except in very dry Weather, when they are obliged to 
carry them two Miles further. From thence they go with the Cur- 
rent down the Onondaga River to the Cataracui Lake. The Distance 
between Albany and the Cataracui Lake (this Way) is nearly the 
same with that between Albany and Monreal; and likewise with 
that between Monreal and the Cataracui Lake, and the Passage 
much easier than the last, because the Stream of the Moliawks River 
is not near as strong as the Cataracui River between the Lake and 
Monreal, and there is no Fall in the River, save one short one; 
whereas there are (as I have said) at least five in the Cataracui 
River, where the Canoes must be unloaded. Therefore it plainly 
follows, that the Indian Goods, may be carried at as cheap a Rate 
from Albany to the Cataracui Lake, as from Albany to Monreal. So 
that the People of Albany plainly save all the Charge of carrying 
Goods two hundred Miles from Monreal to that Part of the Catara- 
cui Lake, which the French have to carry before they bring them to 


the same Place from Monreal, besides the Advantage which the 
English have in the Price of their Goods. 

"I have said, That when we are in the Cataracui Lake, we are 
upon the Level with the French, because here we can meet with all 
the Indians that design to go to Monreal. But besides this Passage 
by the Lakes, there is a River which comes from the Country of 
the Sennekas, and falls into the Onondaga River, by which we have 
an easy Carriage into that Country, without going near the Catara- 
cui Lake. The Head of this River goes near to Lake Eric, and 
probably may give a very near Passage into that Lake, much more 
advantageous than the Way the French are obliged to take by the 
great Fali of Jagara, because narrow Rivers are much safer for 
Canoes than the Lakes, where they are obliged to go ashore if there 
be any Wind upon the Water. But as this Passage depends upon 
a further Discovery, I shall say nothing more of it at this time. 

"Whoever then considers these Advantages New York has of 
Canada, in the first buying of their Goods, and in the safe, speedy, 
and cheap Transportation of them from Britain to the Lakes, free 
of all manner of Duty or Imposts, will readily agree with me, that 
the Traders of New York may sell their Goods in the Indian Coun- 
tries at half the Price the People of Canada can, and reap twice the 
Profit they do. This will admit of no Dispute with those that know 
that Strouds (the Staple Indian Commodity) this Year are sold for 
Ten Pounds apiece at Albany, and at Monreal for Twenty-live 
Pounds, notwithstanding the great Quantity of Strouds said to be 
brought directly into Qucbeck from France, and the great Quanti- 
ties that have been clandestinely carried from Albany. It cannot 
therefore be denied that it is only necessary for the Traders of New 
York to apply themselves heartily to this Trade, in order to bring it 
wholly into their own Hands; for in everything besides Diligence, 
Industry, and enduring Fatigues, the English have much the Advan- 
tage of the French. And all the Indians will certainly buy, where 
they can, at the cheapest Rate. 

"It must naturally be objected, that if these things are true, hozu 
is it possible that the Traders of New York should neglect so con- 
siderable and beneficial Trade for so long time?" 1 

It will thus be seen that Cadwailader Colden, in the early 
part of the eighteenth century, in this most interesting 
Memorial, was called upon as a loyal citizen of this Province 

i. The above extract is here printed verb, ct lit. from the 1747 edition 
(London) of Colden's "History of the five Indian nations of Canada." The 
original Mew York edition (1727) does not contain this memorial. 


to present the arguments for and advantages of the New 
York, Hudson, Mohawk and Lake Ontario route for com- 
mercial purposes then utilized by the English, over those of 
the Montreal, St. Lawrence and Ontario route, then utilized 
by the French. For nearly two centuries, the struggle has 
gone on, and the relative merits of these two rival routes 
have challenged the attention of the transportation interests 
of both countries ; and still, owing to the proposed enlarge- 
ment of the Welland canal, decided upon at the last session 
of the Canadian Parliament and to the advocacy of the 
Georgian Bay-Ottawa ship canal, which would be very 
costly to construct and unprofitable to operate by reason of 
the delays in locking vessels through it, the question is far 
from final solution. 1 But in the course of political affairs 
the position of the English has undergone a complete 
change, and now they naturally favor the Montreal-St. 
Lawrence route in preference to the New York route; and 
we are advancing the arguments in favor of the New York 
route, which Mr. Golden, Governor Burnet and other sub- 
jects of the Crown advanced in its favor and against the 
contention of the French, in the early part of the eighteenth 
century. Let it be said in justice to Cadwallader Colden 
that no man before him, and few, if any, after him have 
had a keener gra^p of the advantages, possessed by this 
State by reason of its geographical position and natural 
facilities for great commercial development and who have 
labored more intelligently to so shape the policy of the 
Province that it would tend to promote that development, 
than did he. His university and professional training, 
amplified by travel and matured in the school of practical 
experience, enabled him, possessing as he did a keen imagi- 
nation, to take a comprehensive view of the commercial 
possibilities of this Province, intersected as it was by a sys- 
tem of natural waterways, which could easily be made to 
intercommunicate, and lying as it does between an extensive 
system of waterways on the west and the Atlantic on the 

i. This route is now (1908) said to be abandoned by the Dominion Gov- 


cast, and' to present such conditions in a statesmanlike man- 
ner to the people of his generation. 

The resume of commercial conditions recited in the 
Colden Memorial shows that prior to that time trading sta- 
tions had been established in various parts of the Province. 
It may elucidate this subject to mention some of these and 
the steps leading up to them. 

As early as 1614, Henry Christiaensen, a Dutch captain 
merchant, sailed up the Hudson to the head of navigation 
and resolved "to provide a permanent station there and to 
invite a regular flow of trade along the avenues which 
nature had provided along the Mohawk from the west and 
along lakes Champlain and George from the north at the 
point where these trade routes converged." This was a little 
below the place, which was afterward the terminus of the 
Champlain and Erie canals. It is the first recorded attempt 
on the part of the whites to unite the commerce of the north 
and west at the Hudson with that of the south. This station 
was protected by "breastworks of palisades" surrounded by 
a moat and known as "Fort Nassau." 

The Netherland Company, incorporated in 1614 by the 
States General of Holland, was given a monopoly of trade 
and the exclusive navigation of such rivers and bays as 
were discovered. 

The statement that Dutch officers of this company entered 
into trade relations with the chiefs of the Five Nations at 
a conference held near Fort Nassau in 1617, is disputed; 
whatever the fact may be, but little was accomplished owing 
to the expiration of the charter of the company in 161 8, 
which resulted in the application of several other associa- 
tions of individuals for charter privileges. These were ulti- 
mately merged in the Dutch West India Company, incor- 
porated in 162 1 for commercial purposes principally, but 
with the additional responsibility of the colonization, gov- 
ernment and defense of its territory. This entailed upon the 
company burdens that hampered its growth and as time 
went on largely depleted its treasury. Thus early did the 
legislation affecting the Province assume a commercial 
character, dominated as it was by the instinct of the Dutch 


for world-wide trade relations, which had enabled Antwerp 
to wrest from Venice the sovereignty of the sea and to be- 
come the emporium of Europe. After its siege by Philip 
II. of Spain, this sovereignty passed from Antwerp to Am- 
sterdam. The harbors of these two ports were successively 
frequented by the merchant marine of many nations, and 
this begot in the people a keen interest in commercial affairs, 
which largely shaped the policy of the Dutch settlers in this 
Province. In 1626 Peter Minuit, a merchant pioneer from 
Wesel on the Rhine, purchased of the Red men Manhattan 
Island for the sum of $24, and it became within two cen- 
turies the emporium of the New World. In a report of the 
Dutch West India Company made in November, 1629, is a 
statement of the commerce of that company, including its 
shipping and naval facilities, which gave employment to 
15,000 seamen and soldiers. 1 

II. Development of Inland Trade by the Dutch. 

The commercial genius of the Dutch, which, in the pleni- 
tude of their maritime power, afforded them "the keenest 
sense of exultation" inspired their colonists to lay the foun- 
dations of the metropolis of the Western Hemisphere. For 
nearly three centuries the spirit and instinct of its people 
have been largely commercial, and this is the philosophical 
explanation of its phenomenal growth. No sooner had the 
Dutch settlers become acquainted with "the abundance of 
lakes, some large, some small, besides navigable kills, which 
are very like rivers, and multitudes of creeks, very useful 
for navigating over all parts of the country," described on a 
map of New Netherland, as appears in a Report of the West 
India Company, in July, 1649, 2 tnan tne > r began to establish 
trading posts and to locate colonies. 

In the "Draft of Freedoms and Exemptions for New 
Netherland," exhibited May 24, 1650, Patroons were au- 
thorized to extend the limits of their colonies "four leagues 

1. 1 Col. Hist. N. Y., 40, 41. 

2. lb. 294. 


along the coast or on one side of a navigable river, or two 
leagues along" both sides of a river and as far inland as the 
circumstances of the occupants would permit." All Pa- 
troons, colonists and inhabitants of New Netherland were 
permitted "to trade along the coast from Florida unto New- 
foundland, provided they return with all the goods they 
obtain in barter, first to the island of the Manhattes, and 
pay a five per cent, duty to the Company, in order, if pos- 
sible, to be sent thence to the aforesaid countries after proper 
inventory of all the cargo." 1 

The monopoly of trade between New Netherland and 
other colonies which were given to the Dutch India Com- 
pany, was done away with in 1638, and the coastwise and 
internal commerce were opened up to all merchants of Hol- 
land by the Freedom and Exemptions, "exhibited" (i. e., 
published) in 1640. 2 All these grants had a direct bearing 
on the growth of New Netherland, notwithstanding the op- 
pression and restraints, imposed upon the colonists by the 
directors and agents of the company, concerning which fre- 
quent complaints were made to the States General. The 
Home Government was slow to make appropriations for the 
Dutch West India Company, notwithstanding that company 
had done much to break the power of Spain on the sea and 
to hold the commerce of the Atlantic for the Netherlands. 
The drain on its treasury, however, was large and its power 
greatly weakened, owing to its naval and governmental ex- 
penditures required by its charter. "In the spring of 1623 
a ship sailed up to the Maykans," an estimated distance of 
132 miles, "and the colony built Fort Orange on Castle 
Island," says W. M. Beauchamp. He also says that James 
Etkens traded near Fort Orange in 1633 and that he had 
lived four years with the Indians. 3 The Mohawks had 
many bear skins. The Mahicans, who were frequently at 
war with the Mohawks, sold much of their lands in 1630 
near Rensselaerwyck to Kiliaen Van Rensselaer and left the 

1. Ib. 402, 403. 

2. Ib. 119. 

3. "History of the New York Iroquois" (N. Y. State Museum Bulletin 
78), 174, 175. 


Hudson valley. Thereafter friendly relations sprung up 
between the Dutch and the Mohawks, which continued until 
they (the Dutch) were superseded by the English. In the 
meantime the Dutch supplied the Indians with strouds, 
awls, knives, hatchets, guns and many other articles and in 
exchange the Dutch received furs and lands. 

Before the advent of the white man, the aborigines had 
supplied themselves with polished stone implements such as 
celts, gouges, adzes, hoes, spades, stone balls, ornaments, 
hammer-stones, mullers, pestles, potstones, stone plummets, 
sinew stones, boatstones, cups, morters, double-edged slate 
knives, women's knives, gorgets, grooved axes, perforators, 
grooved boulders, beveled and notched flint spear-heads, 
arrow-heads, quartz and other scrapers, native copper im- 
plements, especially the Mahaikans, or River Indians ; and 
with a great variety of wooden articles and implements. 
These and other things enabled them to maintain trade 
among themselves and afforded the means for supplying 
their primitive wants. Adriaen Van der Donck in comment- 
ing on the negotiations with the Indians said: "In the year 
1645, we were employed with the officers and rulers of the 
colony of Rensselaerwick in negotiating a treaty of peace 
with the Maquas, who were and still are the strongest and 
fiercest Indian nation of the country ; whereat the Director 
General William Kieft on the one part, and the chiefs of 
the Indian nations of the neighboring country on the other 
part, attended." 1 This continued as long as the Dutch had 
possession of the territory, and enabled the nations in the 
Confederacy to enter into and maintain extensive trade rela- 
tions with the Dutch. 

Van der Donck in his account of "Chahoes'' says that in 
1656 "an Indian accompanied by his wife and child with 
sixty bear skins, descended the river in his canoe in the 
spring when the water runs rapid and the current is strong- 
est, for the purpose of selling his beavers to the Netherland- 
ers. This Indian carelessly approached too near the falls 
before he discovered his danger, and notwithstanding his 
utmost efforts to gain the land, his frail bark, with all on 

1. lb. 189, 190. 


board, was swept over by the rapid current and down the 
falls, his wife and child were killed, his bark shattered to 
pieces, his cargo of furs damaged, but his life was pre- 

This misadventure may have given the Mohawk name 
to the Cohoes, which means "a canoe falling." The state- 
ment shows that the river was used at a very early day by 
the Indians for their commercial purposes. In his history 
of the New York Iroquois, Dr. William M. Beauchamp, an 
authority on Indian lore, says : 

"It was in December 1634 that Arent Van Curler made a trip 
from Fort Orange to Oneida, passing through all the Mohawk towns, 
then on the south side of the river. There were four castles and 
some villages, the first of which he reached on the morning of the 
third day. These were Onekagoncka, Canowarode, Senatsycrosy, 
Netdashet, Canagere, Sohanidisse, Osguage, Cawaoge, and Teno- 
toge. His itinerary is of interest, and it is the earliest we have 
of that part of New York. He left the Mohawk at the last castle, 
taking the usual direct trail over the hills to Oneida, then on the 
upper waters of Oneida creek. It will be remembered that most 
trails are not very old. changing as the towns changed place. At 
Oneida he considered himself in the Seneca country, but met a 
deputation of Onondagas there, being the first mentioned of these 
two nations by name. In an Oneida speech or song, which he re- 
corded, the names of all the upper Iroquois may be seen. He re- 
turned the same way in January, 1635." x 

The interior of the Province at this time and for an hun- 
dred years later, notwithstanding the stipulations of the 
Treaty of Utrecht, concluded in 1713,^1 relation to theFrench 
and English possessions in America, was subject to the pred- 
atory and hostile invasion of the French and Indians from 
the north of Lake Ontario which was known as Lake Cata- 
racqui. Expedition after expedition was made into this 
territory and many were put to death. 2 At first the Dutch 
and afterwards the British resisted these invasions, but they 
continued with more or less frequency until the Revolution. 

1. "History of the New York Iroquois" (N. Y. State Museum Bulletin 
?8), 179. 

2. 1 Col. Hist. N. Y., 146, 151, 153, 186, 190, etc. 


This rendered the life of the aborigines unsettled and pre- 
carious, and they were kept in constant trepidation. Their 
only means of travel along the water courses was in canoes, 
which the Iroquois made of elm bark and some of them 
were large enough to accommodate thirty persons and were 
less easily managed than were the Canadian birch canoes, 
which as Elkanah Watson said, were "light and sail like 
ducks upon the water." 

In 1684 the Provincial Assembly passed an act prohibit- 
ing ships and other vessels from throwing overboard their 
ballast into the harbors and rivers and creeks and thereby 
obstructing navigation. In 16S7 the Onondagas appealed to 
the Mayor and Common Council of Albany to supply them 
with six large guns for their fort at Onondaga, and they 
recommended that a fort be built at Oswego to protect them 
from the incursions of the French from Canada. 

Trading posts were established at New Amsterdam as 
early as 1613 ; at Fort Nassau, also called Fort Orange, or 
Beaverwyck, in 1614; at Fort Frederick on Lake Champlain 
in 1 73 1 ; at a carrying-place between Lake Champlain and 
the Hudson known as Fort Qyius and Fort Edward ; at 
Schenectady (the early Mohawk capital, the Indian name of 
which was "Con-nug-h-ha-rie-gugh-ha-rie," meaning "a 
great multitude collected together") ; at Canagere, a castle, 
called "Wetdashet" by Van Curler, in 1634; at Canajoharie, 
at Little Falls — called by Robert Livingston "the Little 
Carrying Place" ; at Fort Stanwix, the Great Carrying 
Place; at Fort Bull, at the Three River Point, at Fort 
Ontario (Oswego) as early as 1727 ;* at Fort Onondaga, at 
Onnachee, in the town of Hopewell ; at Otihataugue on the 
Salmon river, also called LaFamine ; at Seneca Falls, at 
Geneva, at Tirandaquet (Irondequoit bay), at Kanadesaga, 
at Cayuga, the residence of hereditary chieftains of the 
Senecas; at Niagara as early as 1720;- at Black Rock, at 
Buffalo creek, at Portland, at Mayville, at Olean, at Canea- 
dea and at other places along the waterways of the Province 
from Long Island Sound, the Hudson river, Lake George 

1. 1 Doc. Hist. N. Y., 290, 291, 295, 302, 303. 

2. s Col. Hist. N. V., 588. 


and Champlahi on the east to lakes Cayuga, Seneca and 
Erie on the west. 

Major Abraham Schuyler, son of Peter Schuyler, was at 
the head of an expedition establishing a settlement at Tiran- 
daquat (Irondequoit) creek in 1721, which was said by 
Governor Burnet to be the "beginning of a Great Trade 
. . . with all the Indians upon the Lakes." 1 Durant's 
Memorial relative to the French post at Niagara contains 
information as to the elder Joncaire's journeys to and about 
Niagara and the beginnings of extensive trade relations in 
Western New York, and an account of transportation on its 
lakes and rivers. 

It will thus be seen that there were numerous trading 
stations within and without the territory of the Five Nations 
and that several of them were in water communication with 
each other, but the tonnage over the waterways was not 
large in the western part of the Province. Still the Senecas 
occasionally journeyed as far east as the Hudson, making 
their journeys in canoes through the natural water-courses 
of Central New York. The Iroquois canoes were heavy and 
more or less awkward, but large enough to accommodate 
thirty men, but so shallow as not to enable them to venture 
upon the lakes in storms. Some of them were large enough 
to carry six thousand pounds in addition to the Indians 
necessary to paddle them. They moved rapidly along the 
lakes, rivers and streams of the State and were easily con- 
voyed over portages where, necessary. 

There was a rivalry between the Dutch inhabitants and 
the French Canadians on the north to control the fur trade 
with the Indians resident in this Province. Peter Stuy- 
vesant as early as 1667 wrote to the Duke of York on behalf 
of the Dutch inhabitants in regard to this trade as follows: 

"Since the Trade of Beaver, (the most desirable comodity for 
Europe) hath alhvayes been purchased from the Indyans, by the 
Comodities brought from Holland as Camper, Duffles, Hatchetts, 
and other Iron worke made at Utrick &c much esteemed of by the 
Natives, It is to be fear'd that if those comodities should fail them, 
the very Trade itself would fall, and that the flrench of Canada, who 

1. lb. 632, 6i3. 


are now incroached to be too neare Neighbours unto us (as but 
halfe a days journey from the Mohawkes) making use of their 
Necessities and supplying them, they will in time totally divert the 
Beaver Trade, and then the miserable consequences that will ensue, 
wee shall not have one shipp from Europe to trade with us." 1 

This instinct of the Dutch to control all the trade of this 
territory and the West against the efforts of those in the 
province of Canada who have sought to divert it passed to 
later generations and has dominated the policy of New 
Yorkers since that time. 

After the Province passed under the dominion of Great 
Britain and underwent a change in name as well as in gov- 
ernment, by a special Act of Parliament free trade was 
granted to the Dutch settlers for a period of seven years 
after the surrender of New Amsterdam to the English, to 
the extent of "three shipps onely." This was to enable those 
resident in the colony to continue their commercial relations 
with the Netherlands whither they obtained many things in 
common use that could not be supplied by the English. 

The loss of New Netherlands to Holland resulted in the 
cessation of power to the Dutch West Indies Company and 
it no longer continued to control trade in the province of 
New York. It took some time for the English, however, to 
possess themselves of the trade relations which had existed 
between the Indians and the Dutch for half a century. The 
English looked with disfavor upon the seven years' privilege 
extended to the Dutch to carry on trade relations with the 
settlers in the Province, lest it have "an unhappy influence 
by opening a way for forrainers to trade with the rest of his 
Matys [majesty's] Plantations, and preventing the expor- 
tation of the manufactures of England, and thereby destroy 
his Matys Customs and the trade of this Kingdom which is 
in a great measure upheld by the plantations." 2 Accord- 
ingly the grant was modified by an order in Council made 
on November 18, 1668, which virtually put an end to the 
further trading between the Netherlands and the inhabitants 
of New York. 

1. 3 Doc. Hist. N. Y., 164. 

2. 3 Doc. Hist. N. Y., 177. 


Wherever grants of land were made and settlements 
established under Governor Fletcher and others along the 
Hudson and the Mohawk rivers, local trade became active. 
Commerce was carried on in canoes and batteaux from the 
Genesee country as far east as Fort Orange and New 
Amsterdam. The Provincial Governors were alive to its 
importance and recommended measures from time to time 
to preserve it. Their official reports to the Lords of Trade 
contained much valuable information on this and other mat- 
ters, which show the progress in colonization under the 
British rule and to which reference is made in this paper. 
Not only did the aborigines of Central New York utilize 
the natural waterways of the State extensively in carrying 
on commerce among themselves and with the whites along 
the Hudson and Lake Champlain, but the early Dutch and 
English traders pushed their canoes and batteaux up the 
Mohawk, transported them from the Mohawk to Wood 
creek, and through Oneida lake and river into the Seneca 
river and west to Onondaga, Cayuga and Seneca lakes ; or 
from Oneida river into Lake Ontario and thence westward 
to the Niagara and Lake Erie. All this was done as early 
as the last half of the seventeenth century. 

III. Trade Routes and Topography. 

While considering the trade routes and the topography 
of this Province, it may be well to consider in this connec- 
tion those of Western New York, notwithstanding that it 
necessitates our passing over a century in time so to do. 
Ontario county as originally erected had several navigable 
streams, such as the Genesee river and its tributaries, the 
Irondequoit river and bay, Flint, Mud and Salmon creeks, 
all leading to Lake Ontario, the Susquehanna with its 
tributaries flowing southward into the Chesapeake bay, and 
the Alleghany, flowing through the south-western part 
of the territory and emptying into the Ohio river at Pitts- 
burg. All these were navigable during some months of the 
year in the latter part of the eighteenth and the early part of 
the nineteenth centuries, when primeval forests still pro- 


tected the sources of water supply in this territory. These 
were utilized extensively by the early settlers in carrying 
their products to the markets and in bringing into the terri- 
tory supplies for their use. Accordingly they served a most 
important purpose at a time when there were few highways 
and no railroads and when it was necessary to transport to 
and from the interior of the State the necessaries of life, 
and agricultural and other products. 

This picturesque Genesee country, comprising a large 
part of Western New York, with its rolling hills, fertile 
valleys, charming lakes and rivers, was brought into navi- 
gable water communication with the sea by means of several 

By the Susquehanna river, whose tributaries are the 
outlet of beautiful Otsego lake ; the Chenango river, the 
Tioga or Chemung river, receiving in turn as tributaries the 
Cawanisque, Canisteo, and Conhocton rivers emptying into 
the Chesapeake bay at Fort Deposit, formerly called Havre 
de Grace. 

By the Allegheny river flowing through the southwesterly 
part of the State for a distance of forty-six miles and thence 
southwesterly into the Ohio river and by that into the Miss- 

By the Genesee river, once navigable for fifty miles of its 
length between the Pennsylvania line and Lake Ontario, ex- 
cept as interrupted by its falls, where there were carrying 

By the outlet of Canandaigua, Seneca, and Cayuga lakes 
and Mud creek, forming Seneca river, that flows into the 
Oswego river at the Three River Point. The Oswego river 
empties into Lake Ontario, whose outlet is the St. Lawrence 
river. Or, by ascending the Oneida river and lake, and 
Wood creek and over the portage at Fort Stanwix (after 
1797, through the Western Inland Lock Navigation Com- 
pany's canal), into the Mohawk and thence over the portage 
at Schenectady into the Hudson river. The distance from 
the head of navigation on the Canisteo to Chesapeake bay 
was approximately 350 miles. The distance from the navi- 
gable waters of the Canisteo to the navigable waters of the 


Genesee river was only nine miles, which, it was said, might 
easily be reduced to a portage of five miles ; indeed, the two 
rivers with but little expense might be connected by a canal 
as were those of the Mohawk and Wood creek. 

The head of Seneca lake, which is thirty-five miles long, 
was within twenty-two miles of the navigable waters of the 
Chemung river. Crooked lake, which is twenty miles long 
and eight miles west of Seneca lake, is within seven miles 
of the navigable waters of the Conhocton river. Mud, 
Honeoye, Hemlock and Conesus lakes, all west of Seneca 
lake, and from six to ten miles long, were within short 
distance of the navigable waters of the tributaries of the 
Tioga river. 

The distance between the navigable waters of the Alle- 
ghany river, to which Chautauqua lake, emptying into the 
Conewango creek, is tributary, and those of Seneca river, 
does not exceed fifty miles. The Conewango, flowing into 
the Alleghany river, was navigable through Chautauqua 
lake and within nine miles of Lake Erie, where there was a 
carrying-place for the transportation of merchandise, salt 
and other commercial products passing between Buffalo 
creek and Pittsburg. This route was utilized by early 
traders and afforded reasonably cheap transportation from 
Niagara to the Ohio river. In 1791 some of the boats on 
the Ohio river were made of two-inch oak plank and were 
forty feet long, sixteen feet wide and had a draft of eighteen 
mches when loaded. They were propelled by four oars, 
each requiring three men. These boats were roofed like a 
building as a defense against the attacks of the Indians. 1 

The Tonawanda creek was navigable and reduced the 
land carriage materially between the Genesee river and Lake 
Erie. All these natural waterways were navigable in the 
latter part of the eighteenth and the early part of the nine- 
teenth centuries by canoes and small river boats carrying in 
some months of the year ten tons. Boats carrying 1200 
bushels of wheat descended the Tioga and Susquehanna 
rivers to Baltimore. In 1804 it is said that fifty or sixty 

1. 7 Pubs. Buf. Hi&t. Soc, 384. 


arks and boats, laden with produce from the Genesee coun- 
try, besides many rafts, were floated down the Tioga river 
to the Susquehanna. 1 

From Lyons on Mud creek, now called the Clyde river, 
boats proceeded to Albany or Lake Ontario. Boats descend- 
ed the Alleghany to Pittsburg. Produce was boated from 
Bath to Baltimore, from Lyons to Montreal, and from 
Olean to Pittsburg. 

A sloop of forty tons was launched at Geneva on Seneca 
lake about the year 1796 and a considerable number of sail 
boats were soon in general use on that lake. Ten miles east 
of Seneca lake is Cayuga lake, thirty-eight miles in length, 
and in navigable communication with the Seneca river. 
Twelve miles east of Cayuga lake is Owasco lake, twelve 
miles long. Nine miles farther east is Skaneateles, sixteen 
miles in length; and five miles still further east is Otisco 
lake, wihch is eight miles long. North of these is Onon- 
daga lake, famous in Indian lore; and northeast is Oneida 
lake, which is thirty miles long and one of the most import- 
ant bodies of water in the State, both from an historical as 
well as a commercial point of view. The rivers flowing 
from the Genesee country were navigated by canoes, boats 
and arks. The latter type of vessels were said to have been 
devised by a Mr. Kryder for the "Juneata" river, and were 
made of plank, which were taken apart after they had 
floated their cargoes down to their destination and were 
then sold for lumber with but little loss. 2 

A tourist from Albany to Niagara in 1792 says: "The 
present carrying places are: Albany to Schenectada, 16 
miles; the Little Falls, on the Mohawk river, 2 miles ; from 
the head of the Mohawk to Wood creek, 1 mile ; to Oswego 
Falls, 2 miles; Genesee Falls, 2 miles. Thus you see that 
there is only 23 miles to cut and lock, in order to carry com- 
merce by water, through an extent of country, capable of 
maintaining several millions of people." 8 

1. 2 Doc. Hist. N. Y., 684. 

2. Ib. 663. 

3. Ib. 644. Other historic portages are described in Hulbert's "Portage 
Paths." ("Historic Highways of America," v. 7.) 


The early settlers of the Genesee country fully realized, 
as they state: 

•*. . . the vast advantages derived from the navigable lakes, 
rivers and creeks, which intersect and run through every part of this 
tract of country, affording a water communication from the northern 
farts of the grant by the Genesee river one way, or by the Seneca 
rivtrr another way into the great lake Ontario, and from thence by 
Cataraqui, to Quebec, or by the said Seneca river, the Oneida lake, 
and Wood creek, to Schenectady on the Mohawk river, with only 
a short land carriage, and from thence to Albany, with a portage 
of 16 miles; affording also a water communication from almost 
every township of the southern part of the grant, by means of the 
different branches of the Tioga river, which joining the Susquehanna 
affords an outlet to produce, through an immense extent of country 
on every hand, to Northumberland, and all the towns upon the great 
branch of this river, down to Maryland and Virginia; and (with a 
portage of 12 miles) even to Philadelphia with small boats; and 
when the improvements are made in the Susquehanna, and the pro- 
jected canal cut between the Schuykill and that river; there will be 
an unterrupted good water communication for boats of 10 or 15 
tons from the interior parts of the Genesee country, all the way to 
Philadelphia." * 

A survey of the south shore of Lake Erie was made in 
1789 and flour was then being boated from Presque Isle to 
Niagara.- In 1771 David Ramsay says that 

"I . . . purchased a large battoe at Skennecktity, and pro- 
cured credit to the amount of 1501. York currency's worth of goods, 
and proceeded with these up the Mohawke river to Fort Stanix, 
Crossed the portage down Wood creek, to Lake Canowagas, from 
thence down the river that empties into Lake Ontario, at Oswego; 
and proceeded up that lake, the river Niagara, to the Falls of that 
name. Carried my battoe and goods across the portage to Lake Erie; 
from thence to the river Sold Year, or Kettel Creek, and proceeded 
up that river for sixty miles, where we met tribes of different nations 
of Indians encamped for the purpose of hunting. I [here] continued 
bartering my goods for the furs till towards January 1772l"' 3 

1. 2 Doc. Hist. N. Y., 647. 

2. 7 Pubs. Buf. Hist. Soc, 369. 

3- Ramsay's narrative is given in P. Campbell's "Travels in the interior 
inhabited parts of North America in the years 1701 and 1792" (Edinburgh. 
l T9i), an exceedingly scarce book. It i3 reprinted, 7 Pubs. Buf. Hist. Soc. 
('904). 437-451- 


Ramsay traversed the usual route of that day in going 
from the Mohawk valley to Lake Erie and its tributaries. 
Travellers to the Genesee country upon reaching the Three 
River Point turned up the Seneca river. 

In 1789 Augustus Porter gives an account of his journey 
into the wilderness of Western New York. The party met 
at Schenectady early in May, 1789, was well provisioned 
and had two boats each. In Augustus Porter's own narra- 
tive, occurs the following: 

I assisted in navigating one of the boats, each carrying about 
twelve bands, and known as Schenectady batteaux, and each navi- 
gated by four men. 

Leaving Schenectady, we proceeded up the Mohawk to Fort Stan- 
wix (now Rome). In passing Little Falls of the Mohawk the boats 
and their contents were transported around on wagons. At Fort 
Stanwix we carried our boats, etc., over a portage of about one mile 
to the waters of Wood creek. This creek affords but little water 
from the portage to its junction with the Canada creek, which falls 
into Wood creek seven miles west of Fort Stanwix. At the portage 
there was a dam for a sawmill which created a considerable pond. 
This pond when full could be rapidly discharged, and on the flood 
thus suddenly made boats were enabled to pass down. We passed 
down this stream, which empties into the Oneida lake, and through 
that lake and its outlet to the Three River Point, and thence up the 
Seneca river and the outlet of Kanadasaga (now Seneca lake), to 
Kanadasaga settlement, now Geneva. The only interruption to the 
navigation of this river and outlet occurred at Seneca Falls and Wa- 
terloo, then known as Scoys. At Seneca Falls we passed our boat up 
the stream empty by the strength of a double crew, our loading being 
taken around by a man named Job Smith, who had a pair of oxen 
and a rudely constructed cart, the wheels of which were made by 
sawing off a section of a log, some 2>S or 3 feet in diameter. At 
Scoys we took out about half our load to pass, consisting mostly of 
barrels which were rolled around the rapids. 

"From the time we left Fort Stanwix until we arrived at Kanadas- 
aga, we found no white persons, except at the junction of Canada 
and Wood creeks, where a man lived by the name of Armstrong; 
at Three Rivers Point where lived a Mr. Bingham; and at Seneca 
Falls, where was Joab Smith. Geneva was at that time the most im- 
portant western settlement, and consisted of some six or seven fam- 
ilies among whom were Col. Reed, father of the late Rufus S. Reed 


,j Eric. Perm.; Roger Noble and family of Sheffield, Mass., and 
A -a Ransom, late of Erie County, who had a small shop, and was 
engaged in making Indian trinkets. At Geneva we left our boats 
and cargoes in charge of Capt. Bacon, who had come from Schenec- 
tady, to Fort Stanwix on horseback and then took passage in our 
boats. Joel Steel, Thaddeus Keyes, Orange Woodruff and myself, 
look our packs on our backs and followed the Indian trail over to 

"At Canandaigua (then called Kanandarque) we found Gen. 
Chapin, Daniel Gates, Joseph Smith (Indian interpreter), Benjamin 
Gardner and family, Frederick Saxton (surveyor), and probably 
some half dozen others, all of whom except Smith and Gardner had 
come on with Gen. Chapin some ten or fifteen days before in boats 
from Schenectady by Fort Stanwix, Wood creek, Oneida lake, etc., 
and up the Canandaigua outlet into the very lake itself. This is the 
only instance within my knowledge of the ascent of boots for trans- 
portation so high up; the ordinary point of landing, afterwards, 
being at Manchester, seven miles down.'"' 1 

In 1790 Augustus Porter, while making another journey 
from Schenectady to Western New York first became ac- 
quainted with James Wadsworth, who afterwards was pos- 
sessed of a valuable Estate at Geneseo. Mr. Porter thus 
described their meeting: 

"I have heretofore remarked that the mode adopted to render 
Wood creek navigable was to collect the water by means of a mill- 
dam, thus creating a sudden flood, to carry boats down. Sometimes 
boats did not succeed in getting through to deep water on one flood 
and were consequently obliged to await a second one. As we were 
coursing down the creek during the voyage on our first flood we 
overtook a boat which had grounded after the previous one, the navi- 
gators of which were in the water ready to push her off as soon as 
the coming tide should reach them. Among these persons were 
James Wadsworth of Geneseo, with whom I then first became 
acquainted. He was then on his way to the West, to occupy his 
property at Geneseo, which has since become so beautiful and valu- 
able an estate." 2 

Thus occurred the chance meeting on Wood creek of the 
heads of two of the most prominent families of Western 

1. "Narrative of early years in the life of Judge Augustus Porter, written 
by himself in 1S48," etc., 7 Pubs. Buf. Hist. Soc, 27S-280. 

2. lb. 284. 


New York in 1790, who were destined to wield a marked 
influence in the affairs of the State. 

The firm of Porter. Barton & Co. which owned vessels 
on Lakes Ontario and Erie and had a monopoly of the 
transportation of the goods of the fur companies and Indian 
traders and supplied the military posts on the Great Lakes, 
was associated with Matthew McNair of Oswego and 
Jonathan Walton & Co. of Schenectady. These firms are 
said to have established "the first regular and connected line 
of forwarders that ever did business from tidewater to 
Lake Erie on the American side of the Niagara River." 1 

Porter, Barton & Co. had warehouses at Lewiston, 
Schlosser's and Black Rock. From these three stations there 
was carried on trade with the early settlers east and west 
of Niagara over the great lakes and rivers of this State. 
The goods were hauled overland from Lewiston to Schlos- 
ser's over the military road, built by William Steadman in 
1763 and loaded onto Durham boats, which were poled, 
or hauled by oxen, up the river to Black Rock, where the 
cargoes were transferred onto sailing vessels of twenty tons 
or more capacity for Lake Erie ports or to be transferred 
to boats passing through Chautauqua lake, down its outlet 
into the Alleghany river to Pittsburg. 

The Mohawk Wood creek Oneida lake route had been 
used for a century or more as the highway of trade and 
travel between the Hudson and Lake Ontario. In a report 
of Robert Livingston, Secretary of Indian affairs, made in 
April, 1700, to the Earl of Bellomont, he says: 

"I do, therefore, with submission offer that if his Maty be in- 
clined to go to the charge of keeping a garrison to secure the five 
Nations (without which they are inevitably lost) it cannot be better 
situate than in the Onnondage river about eight or fifteen miles from 
the Oneyde lake, at a point where the river that goes to Onnondage, 
Cayauge & Sinekes comes into ye Onnondage river. This point 
being fortified, secures all the five nations from the French at once, 
and Canoes can goe to the very fort walls without any carrying 
place, except the Little Carrying Place [Little Falls] of 1S00 paces, 
100 miles from Albany, and the Great Carrying Place [Rome] 80 

1. lb. 246, 247. 


rrr.lcs further, reckoned 12 miles; which with some charge could be 
fchorteiied to 4, there being a creek which leads to the Oneyde river, 
now full of wood, which may easily be cleared and a small dam 
niade, which being let open will furnish water for canoes or batoes 
in the dryest time of summer. . . . The French cannot stir to 
y > to the five Nations, but must come up this river from Cadaracqui, 
and then the river of Onnondage below where this Fort is to be built 
is very rapid that all batoes and Canoes must be dragged up with 
great labour, besides a small carrying place of a mile in their way. 
This Post being secured will be the Key of all our Indians, and they 
may resort thither for its defence by land & water. . . . It's far 
more easie to go from Albany with Canoes to Cadaracqui [On- 
tario] than to go from Mont Royal to Cadaracqui, where the French 
army have gone up so often, that river [the St. Lawrence] being one 
of the v, orst for falls, rapids, fords and shallow places, in the 
world." 1 

This report contains much information in regard to the 
condition of trade with the Five Nations and the dangers to 
which their trade relations were exposed from the hostile 
incursions of the French at the North. In this report, Sec- 
retary Livingston makes specific recommendations in the 
way of the construction of fortifications to protect the Five 
Nations from the attacks of the French. He also proposes 
the improvement of Wood creek, which is so named from 
the abundance of wood that fell into it and obstructed its 
navigation. His recommendation to construct a dam for 
storing waters for canoes and batteaux, is the earliest sug- 
gestion of the kind in relation to this stream, which was 
destined to play an important part in the commercial 
development of the State. It was the highway for a century 
or more between the East and the West, and we have already 
>een that a mill-dam was in use there at the time Augustus 
Porter passed down that creek in 1789. A few years later 
the Western Inland Lock Navigation Company built a canal 
between Wood creek and the Mohawk ; and now, more than 
two hundred years after Robert Livingston made his report, 
the State is constructing a barge canal along the original 
Mohawk Wood creek and Oneida lake route. The evolu- 
tion in transportation by water from the canoe to the 1,000 

1. 4 Col. Hist. N. Y., 650, 651. 


ton barge is seen in this transformation of these bodies of 
water from tortuous, shallow and obstructed into straight- 
ened, deep and navigable channels. 

During the months of April and May, 1700, Col. Peter 
Schuyler, Robert Livingston, and Hendrick Hanse, made a 
journey from Albany "to visit the M aquas (Mohawks), 
Oneydes and Onnondages Nations" and reported back to the 
Earl of Bellomont, Governor of New York, that they were 
informed that "the Governour of Canada, would especially 
make 5 forts, viz : 

"One at Onyagare, that is, on the mouth of a great river [the 
Niagara], which comes into Cadaracqui lake on the southwest end 

"The second at Jerondaquat [Irondequoit], that is, on this side of 
Cadaracqui Lake, where the path, goes up to the Sinnekes Castles, 
about 30 miles from where the Sinnekes have now built their cas- 

"The third at Kaneenda [often called the Port of Onondaga], a 
fishing place of the Onnondages 8 miles from their Castle, their land- 
ing place when they came from hunting over the Cadaracqui lake. 

"The fourth Fort at Kahioghage [Salmon river], a place where 
the Oneydes fish being upon a river that vents it self into the south 
side of Cadaracqui lake about 12 miles from sd lake being a days 
journey & a halfe from Oneyde. 

"The fifth Fort at Ojeenrudde [Ticonderoga], which lies upon the 
branch of our river, about 3 days journey from a village of the 
Maquas, called Dekanoge." 1 

Prior to this time fortifications had existed for the pro- 
tection of the trade with the Indians at various points along 
or near Lakes Ontario and Champlain, but most or all of 
these had disappeared. 

A fort was built at Irondequoit bay by de Denonville a? 
early as July, 1687, and garrisoned by 440 men; and later 
in the same year another was built at Niagara, garrisoned 
by 100 men and abandoned the following year. In 1688 the 
Mohawks advised Governor Dongan to build a fort at 
Cayonhage at the north of Salmon river and another at 
Onjadarakte, now Ticonderoga, on Lake Champlain, where 
there were havens for small vessels. 

1. Ib. 656. 



A fort was built on the east shore of Onondaga lake in 
1696, the remains of which were to be seen long afterwards. 

The French charged the Five Nations "not to hearken to 
Corlear, the Governour of N. Yorke for he would kill and 
destroy them, he would poison them," . . . adding it 
was "certain the English were designed to make away with 
the 5 nations." In reply to these charges and to the threats 
of the French to build the five forts at the places named, 
Col. Schuyler, Secretary Livingston and Hendrick Hanse 
replied that the Earl of Bellomont "would rather lose his 
life than be the inventor of such falsehoods as the French 
have infused into you." 1 They "did believe that the French 
would build these forts" and further replied to the represen- 
tatives of the Five Nations that "the French would not be 
suffered to build them and that Lord Bellomont would 
satisfy them, when they visited him at Albany in the 

This throws some light upon the condition of the inhabi- 
tants of this Province in the year 1700, when the trading 
stations were being established along the frontier and the 
struggle between the French and the English for the control 
of the trade of the Five Nations was a matter of national 
diplomacy. The Earl of Bellomont and other Provincial 
Governors made official reports of all matters relating to 
trade to the Lords of Trade, and in reply received official 
instructions for the conduct of such matters in the Province. 
It is interesting from a commercial viewpoint to know that 
the Provincial Governors were thoroughly alive to the im- 
portance of establishing and maintaining routes and trade 
relations with the inhabitants of this Province, as shown in 
the official papers of that period. 

Wood creek was visited in 1700 by Col. Romer "to see 
how much lesse the Carrying place could be made." 2 

In July, 1702, representatives of the Five Nations located 
in central New York appealed to Lord Cornbury, Captain 
General and Governor in Chief of New York, among other 
things concerning trade at Albany, and prayed that "ye 

1. lb. 659. 

2. 4 Col. Hist. N. Y., 807. 


Path over ye Carrying Place may be mark'd upon ye Tree^ 
and ye old Trees taken out of ye Creek [Wood] which 
much injures the Passage of Canoes, and will much facili- 
tate their coming- hither [to Albany]." 1 On July 14th Lord 
Cornbury answered : "I will not only give directions to have 
ye Path at ye Carrying Place marked out and ye Creek 
cleered of old Trees for ye ease and accommodation of all 
strangers that may be inclined to come & see us, but will 
upon ye least intimation of your peoples coming this way 
send guides from hence to convey them hither." 2 

In September, 1721, Governor Burnet in his official in- 
structions to Captain Peter Schuyler, Junior, said: 

"You are with all Expedition to go with this Company of Young 
Men that are willing to Settle in the Sinnekes Country for a twelve 
month to drive a Trade with the far Indians that come from the 
upper Lakes, and Endeavour by all Suitable means to perswade them 
to come and Trade at Albany or with this new settlement. 

''You are not to Trade with the four hithermost Nations but to 
carry your goods as farr as the Sinnekes Country to Trade with 
them or any other Indian Nations that come thither. 

"You are to make a Settlement or Trading House either at Jeron- 
dequate or any other Convenient place on this Side of Cadarachqui 
Lake upon the Land belonging to the Sinnekes, and use all Lawfull 
means to draw the furr Trade thither by sending Notice to the farr 
Indians that you are settled there for their ease and Incouragement 
by my order, and that they may be assured they shall have Goods 
Cheaper here than Ever the French can afford them at Canada 
for the French must have the principall Indian goods from England, 
not having them of their own. 

"You are also to acquaint all the far Indians that I have an abso- 
lute promise and Engagement from the five Nations that will not 
only suffer them to pass freely and peaceably through their Country, 
but will give them all due Encouragement and sweep and keep the 
Path open and Clean when ever they intend to come and Trade with 
this Province. . . . You are to Endeavour to purchase a Tract 
of Land in the King's Name and to agree with the Sinnekes for it 
which shall be paid by the Publick in order that it may be granted 
by Patent to those that shall be the first settlers there for their In- 
couragement. . 

1. lb. 979- 

2. lb. 981. 


. . . "Whereas it is thought of great use to the British inter- 
est to have a settlement upon the nearest part of the Lake Eree near 
the falls of Iagara you are to endeavor to purchase in his Majesty's 
name of the Sinnekes or other native proprietors all such lands above 
the falls of Iagara fifty miles to the southward of the said falls, 
which they can dispose off." 1 

In the answer of the Six Nations to Governor Burnet, 
under date of Sept. 17, 1724, they said: 

"We say still that we are come out of Darkness into Light, Your 
kindness to us exceeds that of your predecessors, for you have been 
at the expence to mend & clear the carrying place & Wood Creek, 
and that you will order it further to be mended, for which we return 
our hearty thanks for now the old & decrepit may come over the 
carrying place whereas formerly it us [was] difficult to pass that 
way but now it will induce & encourage the Far Indians to come to 
trade here which will engage them to be firmly united to us. It is 
most certain that Trade is the cheifest motive to promote Friendship, 
therefore we repeat again that we return you our hearty thanks for 
this singular favor & kindness." 2 

These and other important official papers, bearing on the 
trade relations of the Province, preceded the memorial of 
Cadwallader Colden, already mentioned. They were fol- 
lowed by other official papers, in which the commercial 
advantages of the Province were set forth from the different 
points of view of the writers, actuated as they were by strong 
commercial instinct. 

Cadwallader Colden in his official report to Lieutenant 
Governor Clarke in 1737-1738, thus describes the adapta- 
bility of the topography of the Province for commercial 
development : 3 

"In the Mohawks Country, the Level of the Land seems to be at 
the greatest height above the sea ; for in that part of the country, at 
about 50 miles west northwest from Albany, & 12 miles west from 
the Mohawks River, some Branches of the largest Rivers in North 
America. & which run contrary courses, take their rise within 2 or 
3 miles of each other, viz., 1st a Branch of Hudson's river, which 
falls into the sea near New York, after having run about 250 miles. 

1. 5 Col. Hist. N. Y., 542, 642. 

2. lb. 717. 

3. 4 Doc. Hist. N. Y., 112. 


"Second, the Oneida River running northward falls into Oneida 
Lake, which empties itself into the Cadarackin Lake at Oswego; 
from this Lake the great River St. Lawrence takes its rise which, 
passing Montreal and Quebec, empties itself into the Ocean opposite 
to Newfoundland. 

"Thirdly, a Branch of Susquehana River, which running South- 
erly passes through Pennsylvania &: Maryland, and empties itself into 
Chesapeak Bay in Virginia. 

"The Province of New York has, for the conveniency of Com- 
merce, advantages by its scituation beyond any other Colony in North 
America For Hudson's River, running through the whole extent- of 
the Province, affords the inhabitants an easy Transportation of all 
their Commodities, to & from the City of New York. From the 
Eastern Branch there is only land carriage of sixteen miles to the 
Wood Creek, or to Lake St. Sacrament, both of which fall into Lake 
Champlain, from whence Goods are transported by water to Quebec. 
But the chief advantages are from the western Branch of Hudson's 
River. At 50 miles from Albany the Land Carriage from the Mo- 
hawks river to a lake from whence the Northern Branch of Susque- 
hana takes its rise, does not exceed 14 miles. Goods may be carried 
from this lake in Battoes or flatt bottomed Vessels, through Pennsyl- 
vania, to Maryland & Virginia, the current of the river running 
every where easy, without any cataract in all that large space. In 
going down this River two large branches of the same River are 
met, which come from the westward, & issue from the long ridge of 
mountains, which stretch along behind Pensylvania, Maryland, Vir- 
ginia & Carolina, commonly call'd the Apalachy Mountains. By 
either of these Branches Goods may be carried to the mountain & I 
am told that the passage through the Mountains to the Branches 
of the Misissipi which issue from the West side of these Mountains, 
is neither long nor difficult ; by which means an Inland Navigation 
may be made to the Bay of Mexico. 

"From the Head of the Mohawks River there is likewise a short 
land Carriage of four miles only, to a Creek of the Oneida lake, 
which empties itself into Cadarackui Lake at Oswego; and the 
Cadarackui Lake, being truly an Inland sea, of greater breadth than 
can be seen by the eye, communicates with Lake Erie, the Lake of 
the Hurons, Lake Michigan & the Upper lake, all of them Inland 
seas, By means of these Lakes, & the Rivers which fall into them, 
Commerce may be carried from New York, through a vast Tract of 
Land, more easily than from any other maratime Town in North 


On February 17, J 738, Lieutenant-Governor Clarke in 
his report to the Lords of Trade, says: 

"No Province is more happy in its situation for trade and navi- 
gation. This town (New York) is not above 21 miles from the sea, 
having a bold and safe channel to it for vessels even of a large size, 
and an excellent harbor before the town: Our inland navigation is 
inferior to none, for besides that to New Jersey and Connecticut, the 
Hudson river is navigable through the heart of the Province 150 
miles from New York to Albany : From Albany to Schenectady is 
but 15 or 16 by land, and there you enter the Mohocks river, which 
is navigable for canoes and battows to the head of it, being about 120 
or 130 miles; From thence there is a short land carriage of a few 
miles to the Wood Creek, which leads through the Oneidas Lake to 
Oswego, and the lakes and rivers even to the branches of Messa- 
sippi; It is from the Indians that inhabit near, and to the northward 
and westward of those lakes, that we ha T , e our beaver in exchange 
chiefly for goods of the manufacture of England." 1 1 

X *■ OiC ? , 

In the Remonstrance of the General Assembly to Gov- 
ernor George Clinton, under date of October 9, 1747, 
among other things, appear references to such garrisons and 
forts as that at Saraghtoga and at Albany, and the garrison 
and trading house at Oswego, which were considered of 
such importance that they "should be supplied and preserved 
at all events from falling into the hands of the enemy/' 2 

Mr. Clinton in his letter to the Lords of Trade under 
date, of July 25, 1745, represents that "Forts and trading 
houses" were erected "along the Lake in the Senekes Coun- 
try (contrary to the faith of Treaties)/' which enabled the 
French to exert great influence over the Indians to the 
detriment of the English. 3 

On August 7, 1755, Lieutenant Governor De Lancey 
reports to Secretary Robinson that "Captain Bradstreet, 
who was sent in command at Oswego . . . having in 
three hours time passed the great carrying place between 
the Mohawks River and the Wood Creek, with his Company, 

1. Clarke to the Lords of Trade: 6 Col. Hist. N. Y., 113- 

2. 6 Col. Hist. N. Y., 619. 

3. lb. 645. The Morris map of 1749 in the British Museum shows scleral 
portages in New York, forming routes to the St. Lawrence. 


provisions, Battoes and Baggage, which is less time than 
what the Traders generally take with a single Battoe when 
they hasten to the Mart at Oswego." 1 Proceeding further 
in the same report Lieutenant Governor De Lancey in 
relation to transportation by water says : 

4 The same Battoes which carry the train, provisions ettc for the 
Army to Oswego, may carry them to Niagara, and being transported 
above the falls, the same may carry them to Presque Isle, the Fort on 
the South side of Lake Erie, so that it will be practicable to bring the 
expence of such an expedition into a moderate compass, far less, 
than the expence of Waggons, horses ettc which are necessary in an 
expedition by Land from Virginia to the Ohio." 2 

IV. Earliest Improvements of Waterways. 

There appeared on the topographical map of the country 
between the Mohawk river and Wood creek, from a survey 
taken in 1758, at the time General Abercrombie sent instruc- 
tions to General Stanwix to build a fort at the Oneida car- 
rying place, drawings of sections of the Mohawk and its 
tributaries and also of a section of Stoney creek, a part of 
Wood creek, with a sluice and dam in Stoney creek to raise 
a head of water to float batteaux to Fort Bull. It is stated 
in the notes that a sawmill with dam was built there on a 
branch or tributary of the Mohawk in 1758, at the time of 
the building of Fort Stanwix, and that there was a wood 
dam made by a prodigious number of trees thrown pro- 
miscuously by freshets across the Mohawk. The shortest 
distance in a straight line as represented on that map from 
the waters of the Mohawk to those of Stoney creek is 5,000 
feet and the road over the carrying place was some longer, 
said to be 5,940 feet. It was also represented, if a ditch 
were cut between these two streams, loaded batteaux might 
pass without any portage, "besides by a sluice it might be 
made a dry or a navigable channel at pleasure." 

1. 6 Col. Hist. N. Y., 990. 

2. lb. 991. 


The sluice in Stoney creek, "by being shut 6 or 8 hours 
before the batteaux were to go to and from Fort Bull, gave 
.mmcient water to float them." 7 

When General Philip Schuyler was in England, in 1761, 
he observed what England was doing in the way of canal 
construction and upon his return to this country prevailed 
upon Governor Sir Henry Moore to look into the matter of 
rendering the Mohawk river navigable by the construction 
of such canals as might be necessary to overcome the rapids 
at Little Falls and elsewhere. 2 

In the French report of the topography of the country 
between Oswego and Albany made in 1757, is contained, in 
addition to many other things of interest commercially, the 
following description of Wood creek: 

"From Lake Oneida we enter the River Vilcrick, which empties 
into that lake, and ascend nine leagues to Fort Bull. This river is 
full of sinuosities, narrow and sometimes embarrassed with trees 
fallen from both banks. Its navigation is difficult when the water is 
low. It is, however, passable at all times with an ordinary bateau 
load of 14 to 1,500 weight. When the waters of this stream are low, 
an ordinary bateau load cannot go by the river further than a league 
of Fort Bull. It becomes necessary then to unload and make a 
carrying place of the remainder by a road constructed to the Fort, 
or to send back the bateau for the other half load." 3 

Jonathan Carver, a captain in the Provincial troops during 
the French and Indian war, gives an account of a journey in 
1766 from Boston to the western country, and in his descrip- 
tion of the rivers and lakes says that "Oniada lake, situated 
near the head of the river Oswego, receives the waters of 
Wood creek, which takes its rise not far from the Mohawks 
river. These two lie so adjacent to each other that a junc- 
tion is effected by sluices at Fort Stanwix," about twelve 
miles from the mouth of the former. This statement has 

1. Col. Montresor to Capt. Green, July, 1 758 ; 4 Doc. Hist. N. Y., 326. A 
good description of the Oneida portage and its several forts, and a copy of a 
British Museum map of the Oneida port3ge, 1756, are given in Hulbert's 
"Portage Paths" (7 "Historic Highways of America"), 138-150. 

2. Lossing's "Empire State," 347. Hosack's "Memoir of DeWitt Clinton," 
289, note. 

3. 10 Col. Hist. N. Y., 675. 


been frequently quoted by writers and men no less eminent 
than De Witt Clinton, but there seems to be little to sub- 
stantiate the statement, that artificial water communication 
had been effected between Oneida lake and the Mohawk 
river by sluices prior to 1766, other than the word of Captain 
Carver. Had such water communication existed at that 
lime, it is difficult to understand why Sir Henry Moore, 
Governor of the Province, who traversed that region in 
1768, did not make mention of it, and especially so in view 
of his desire to establish water communication up the Mo- 
hawk past Little Falls to Fort Stanwix. The sluices con- 
structed or proposed on the topographical map of 1758 were 
about one mile apart and did not then connect the waters of 
the Mohawk and Stoney or Wood creek. 1 

In a letter from Major General Gage to the Earl of 
Shelburne, dated at New York, May 27, 1767, he says: 

"In order to lessen expenses ... I have it now under con- 
sideration to ease the Crown of the expense of supporting Fort Stan- 
wix, which stands upon [the] carrying place between the Mohawk 
River and the Wood Creek; the last a small River whose Waters 
lead to Lake Ontario. . . The use of Fort Stanwix was, that being 
situated upon a carry Place, the Garrison assisted in the Transporta- 
tion of the Boats & Stores, but as the Stores formerly demanded are 
now greatly reduced, I am of opinion that the Service can be carried 
on in the manner proposed without being at the expense of support- 
ing a Fort and maintaining a Garrison at so great .a distance." 2 

No mention of water communication between the Mo- 
hawk and Wood creek was made in 1767 by General Gage, 
who proposed to discontinue Fort Stanwix. 

In an official report to the Earl of Hillsborough, dated 
August 17, 1768, Governor Sir Henry Moore says in rela- 
tion to his tour through the Province : 

1. On the general unreliability of Carver, see "The Travels of Jonathan 
Carver," by Kdward Gaylord Bourne, American Histotical Refictv, Jan. 1906. 
The book is shown to be largely plagiarized from other travelers and may in- 
deed have been written by Dr. John Coakley Lettsom, the ostensible editor of 
Carver's mss. Published in 1778, the reference to "sluices at Fort Stanwix" is 
probably based, not on what Carver found there in 1766, b\it on Moore's report 
of 1768, proposing the construction of sluices. This report, as well as that of 
Gov. Tryon in 1774, "was no doubt familiar to the compiler of the "Travels" 
attributed to Carver. 

2. 7 Col. Hist. N. Y., 985. 


"I went up as far as the Canajoharies Falls [Little Falls] on the 
Mohawk river; here is a carrying place about a mile in length and all 
boats going down or up the river are obliged to unload and be car- 
ried overland, which is a great detriment not only on account of the 
delay it occasions, but from the damage done to the boats and cargo, 
which sutler greatly by the common method of proceeding with 
them. As this fall is the only obstruction to the navigation between 
Fort Stanwix and Schenectady, my intention was to project a canal 
on the side of the falls with sluices on the same plan as those built 
on the great canal in Languedoc, and I stayed a whole day there, 
which was employed in measuring the falls and examining the 
ground for that purpose. Upon the meeting of the Legislative bodies 
I propose to lay what I have done before them and engage them, if 
I possibly can, to carry into execution a project which will be at- 
tended with such benefit to the public. If I fail of success in my at- 
tempt, I shall still have this satisfaction, that I have done my duty 
in pointing out to them how those advantages they have from their 
situation may be improved, the rest must depend on themselves.'" 1 

Accordingly in his message to the Colonial Assembly on 
December 16, 1768, Governor Moore stated that "the ob- 
struction of navigation in the Mohawk river between 
Schenectady and Fort Stanwix, occasioned by the falls of 
Canajoharie, had been constantly complained of and that it 
was obvious to all who were conversant in matters of this 
kind that the difficulty could be easily removed by sluices by 
the plan of those in the great canal of Languedoc, France, 
which was made to open a communication between the At- 
lantic ocean and the Mediterranean." This is the earliest 
authentic proposal for the construction of artificial water 
communication to overcome the falls in the Mohawk be- 
tween Schenectady and Fart Stanwix of which we have 
any record. 

In the official report to Governor Tryon, under date of 
June 11, 1774, under certain heads of inquiry, among them 
is one relative to ''What rivers are there, and of what extent 
and convenience in point of Commerce?" In answer 
thereto, he said : 

"Hudsons River is the only navigable river in the Province, and 
affords a safe and easy passage for vessels of eighty tons burthen to 

1. 8 Col. Hist. N. Y., 93. 


the City of Albany, which is about 180 miles from the sea. It has 
already been mentioned that it extends nearly to the latitude of 45 — 
but the navigation except for small vessels terminates at or near that 
city. To the northward of Albany, about ten miles, this river 
divides. The western branch which (above the great Cahoo falls) is 
called the Mohawk river, or the Mohawk branch of the Hudsons 
river, leads to Fort Stanwix, and a short cut across the carrying 
place there might be made into Wood creek, which runs into the 
Oneida lake, and thence through the Onondaga river into Lake On- 

"The other branch being the continuation of the main river tends 
to Fort Edward, to the north of which it seems practicable to open 
a passage by locks, &c, to the waters of Lake Champlain which com- 
municate with the river St. Lawrence, passing over the falls at St. 

"Both branches are interrupted by falls and rifts; to surmount 
these obstructions, an expence would be required too heavy for the 
Province at present to support, but when effected would open a most 
extensive inland navigation, equal, perhaps, to any as yet known." 1 

In 1776, General Philip Schuyler proposed a water-way 
between the Hudson and Lake Champlain and was author- 
ized to "take measures for clearing' Wood creek at Skeens- 
boro, constructing there and taking the level of the waters 
falling into the Hudson at Fort Edward and into Wood 
creek." - Charles Carroll of Maryland states that while 
being entertained by General Schuyler at Albany in March, 
1776, General Schuyler informed him that "an uninter- 
rupted water carriage between New York and Quebec 
might be made at fifty thousand sterling expense/' 

In 1777 Gouverncur Morris in a conversation with Mor- 
gan Lewis and General Philip Schuyler at Fort Edward 
said : "At a no very distant day the waters of the great west- 
ern seas will by the aid of man break through the barriers and 
mingle with those of the Hudson. Numerous streams pass 
these barriers through natural channels and artificial ones 
may be conducted by the same routes." 3 

1. Ib. 442. 

2. This stream, running into Lake Champlain, should not be confused with 
the Wood creek running into Oneida lake. 

3. Lossing's "Life and Times of Philip Schuyler," II, 40, 44. 


In 1783, in a letter. General Washington wrote to the 
Marquis de Chastellux as follows : 

"I have lately made a tour through the Lakes George and Cham- 
plain, as far as Crown Point; thence returning to Schenectady, I 
proceeded up the Mohawk river to Fort Schuyler (formerly Fort 
Stanwix), and crossed over to Wood creek, which empties into the 
Oneida lake, and affords the water communication with Ontario. I 
then traversed the country to the head of the eastern branch of the 
Susquehanna and viewed the lake Otsego and the portage between 
that lake and the Mohawk river at Canajoharie. Prompted by these 
actual observations, I could not help taking a more extensive view 
of the vast inland navigation of these United States, from maps and 
the information of others; and could not but be struck with the 
immense extent and importance of it, and with the goodness of that 
Providence which has dealt its favors to us with so profuse a hand. 
Would to God we may have wisdom enough to improve them. I 
shall not rest contented, till I have explored the western country and 
traversed those lines, or great part of them, which have given bounds 
to a new empire." 

In 1784, Christopher Colles, an Irish engineer, who had 
located in New York City and proposed to build a reservoir 
for the storing of water for the use of that municipality, 
presented a memorial to the Legislature on the subject of 
improving navigation of the Mohawk river, which was 
reported upon by the Assembly committee on November 6th, 
as follows : 

"That it is the opinion of the Committee that the laudable pro- 
posal of Mr. Colles for removing the obstructions of the Mohawk 
river so that boats of burthen may pass the same, merits encourage- 
ment ; but that it would be inexpedient for the Legislature to cause 
that business to be undertaken at the public expense; that as the per- 
formance of such work would be very expensive, it is, therefore, the 
opinion of the Committee that Mr, Colles with a number of adven- 
turers (as by him proposed) should undertake it and that they ought 
to be encouraged by a law giving and securing unto them, their heirs 
and assigns forever, the profits that may arise by the transportation, 
under such restrictions and regulations as shall appear to the Legis- 
lature necessary for that purpose, and authorizing them to execute 
that work through any lands or improvements on payment of the 
damages to the proprietors as the same shall be assessed by a jury." 

1. Washington to Chastellux, Oct. 12, 17S3. 


That report was concurred in by the Assembly. 

The following year, Mr. Colles again applied to the 
Legislature and an item of $125 was inserted in the 
Supply Bill 4, for the purpose of enabling him (Colles) to 
make an essay toward the removing of certain obstructions 
in the Mohawk river and to exhibit a plan thereof at their 
next meeting." 

Accordingly Mr. Colles made a survey of some of the 
impediments of the Mohawk river as far as Wood creek 
and set forth in detail the results of his investigation in a 
pamphlet entitled "Proposal for the speedy settlement of 
the waste and unappropriated lands on the western frontier 
of Western New York and for the improvement of inland 
navigation between Albany and Oswego." In this report he 
recommended the organization of a company with a capital 
stock of £13,000, and that there be ceded to the company a 
grant of 250,000 acres of western lands on the completion 
of the inland navigation of the Cahoes, the Little Falls, and 
Fort Schuyler. He estimated the expense of a canal 4*4 
miles in length, with 20 locks, at Cahoes, at £6,000 ; a canal 
at Little Falls, one mile in length with six locks, he estimated 
at £3,000; a canal at Ft. Schuyler (Rome), 1% miles in 
length, he estimated at £2,000. Improvement of the channel 
of the river, he estimated at £2,000. 

After making the foregoing estimates, Mr. Colles con- 
tinues in his report as follows: 

"From the foregoing calculations, the importance of the proposed 
design will appear sufficiently evident. By this, the internal trade 
will be increased — by this also, the foreign trade will be promoted — 
by tills, the country will be settled — by this, the frontiers will be se- 
cured — by this, a variety of articles, as masts, yards, and ship timber 
may be brought to New York, which will not bear the expense of 
land carriage, and which, notwithstanding, will be a considerable re- 
mittance to Europe. By this, in time of war, provisions and military 
stores may be moved with facility in sufficient quantity to answer 
any emergency; and by this, in time of peace, all the necessaries, 
conveniences, and if we please, the luxuries of life, may be dis- 
tributed to the remotest parts of the great lakes, which so beautifully 
diversify the face of this extensive continent, and to the smallest 


branches of the numerous rivers which shoot from these lakes upon 
every point of the compass. 

"Providence, indeed, appears to favour this design; for the Alle- 
gany mountains, which pass through all the states, seem to die away 
as they approach the Mohawk river; and the ground, between the 
upper part of this river and Wood creek, is perfectly level, as if de- 
signedly to permit us to pass through this channel into this exten- 
sive inland country. 

"The amazing extent of the five great lakes, to which the pro- 
posed navigation will communicate, will be found to have five times 
as much coast as all England; and the country watered by the 
numerous rivers, which fall into these lakes, full seven or eight times 
as great as that valuable island. If the fertility of the soil be the ob- 
ject of our attention, we will find it at an average equal to Britain. 
Of late years, the policy of that island has been to promote inland 
navigation ; and the advantages, gained both by the public and indi- 
viduals, have been attended with such happy consequences, that it is 
intersected in all manner of directions by these valuable water-ways, 
by which the inhabitants receive reciprocally the comforts of the 
respective productions, whether flowing from the bounty of Provi- 
dence, or the effects of industry; and b\ r an exchange of commodities, 
render partial and particular improvements the source of universal 
abundance." 1 

This was an early and a thrilling prophecy of New York's 
commercial development, which will be more fully realized 
when the Mohawk river and Wood creek are improved and 
become the highway for the vast commerce that will be 
borne upon their waters at the completion of the barge 
canals, 125 years after such prophecy was made. His words 
have been oft repeated and they have been an inspiration to 
many as they have realized their full significance and con- 
templated the advantages that would accrue from connect- 
ing the great lakes on the west with tidewater on the east. 

At the legislative session of 1786, the committee reported 
favorably upon the renewed application of Mr. Colles; and 
permission was given him to bring in a bill to compensate 
him for the purposes specified. Owing to the want of sub- 
scribers to the capital stock of his proposed corporation 
Christopher Colles appears to have lost interest in the pro- 

1. "The Canal Policy of the State of New York," by Tacitus, 12, 13. 


ject and did not pursue the matter further. He was a 
prophet and now, more than a century afterward, his vision 
is assuming" substantial form. 

Mr. Colles again appealed to the Legislature, and the 
Committee having the matter in charge made a favorable 
report upon his application. The petition of Christopher 
Colles was referred to Mr. JefTery Smith, who, on March 
17, 17S6, reported in favor of ''An Act for improving the 
navigation of the Mohawk river, Wood creek, and the Onon- 
daga river with a view of opening an inland navigation to 
Oswego, and for extending the same, if practicable, to Lake 
Erie." But the Legislature adjourned without taking final 
action on the proposition. 

Mr. Colles was one of the first to call attention to the 
gap in the Appalachian mountain chain. 

In lySCh Goldsbrow Banyar, General Philip Schuyler 
and Elkanah Watson were appointed commissioners "to ex- 
amine and report on making a canal from Wood creek to 
the Mohawk river and generally as to the most judicious 
plan of making the river navigable." x 

As early as 1787 Joel Barlow in his "Vision of Colum- 
bus" prophesied that: 

"From fair Albania, toward the setting sun, 
Back through the midland length ning channels run; 
And the fair lakes, their beauteous towns that lave, 
And Hudson's joined to fair Ohio's wave." 

In 1788, Elkanah Watson visited Fort Stanwix. He says 
in his Journal : 

"In contemplating the situation of Fort Stanwix, at the head of 
batteaux navigation on the Mohawk river, within one mile of Wood 
creek, running west, I am led to think this situation will, in time, 
become the emporium of commerce between Albany and the vast 
western world above. 

"Wood creek is, indeed, small, but it is the only water communi- 
cation with the great lakes. It empties into the Oneida lake; thence 
down the Onondaga and Oswego rivers to Lake Ontario, at Fort 
Oswego, where the British have a garrison. 


8 Cot. Hist. N. Y., 189, note. 


"Should the Little Falls be ever locked, the obstructions in the 
Mohawk river removed, and a canal between said river and Wood 
cceejkj at this place formed, so as to unite the waters running east, 
with those running west ; — and other canals made, and obstructions 
removed to fort Oswego, — who can reasonably doubt but that by 
such bold operations, the State of New York have it within their 
power, by a grand stroke of policy, to divert the future trade of lake 
Ontario, and the great lakes above, from Alexandria and Quebec, 
to Albany and New York." 1 

Nothing- is said by Watson about existing water com- 
munication effected by sluices. In September, 1791, he 
visited Fort Stanwix again, and in his Journal he says: "We 
transported our boats, and baggage, across the carrying- 
place, a distance of two miles, over a dead flat, — and 
launched them into Wood creek, ruiuiing zvest, — huzza! It 
is a mere brook at this place, which a man can easily jump 

The mill dam and sluices in Wood creek did not then 
establish water communication between that creek and the 
Mohawk river. It is improbable that the forces at Fort 
Stanwix, under the command of Col. William Bradstreet in 
1758, or those under General Prideaux and General Sir 
William Johnson in 1759. all of whom were compelled to 
pass from the -Mohawk through W^ood creek and Oneida 
lake to reach Oswego and Lake Ontario, constructed the 
sluices referred to by Captain Carver for military purposes, 
notwithstanding that was the established route for trans- 
porting troops and supplies as well as for general travel 
between the Mohawk river and Lake Ontario, as neither Sir 
Henry Moore, nor Elkanah Watson, both of whom were 
particularly interested in that subject, made it a matter of 

Had artificial water communication between the Mohawk -.s. 
and Wood creek existed in 1766, as stated by Carver, it 
would have been an event of such importance as to occasion 
comment by all who traveled that way thereafter. How- 
ever, none of those who passed from the Mohawk to Wood 
creek before or after 1766 make mention of any such water 

1. Watson's "History of the . . . Western Canals," 15, 16. 


communication effected by sluices and some speak of Fort 
Stanwix as the western terminus of canal navigation until 
the Western Inland Lock Navigation Company completed 
its canal in 1797. 

On March 17, 1786, Mr. Jeffrey Smith, of Suffolk- 
County, introduced a bill, entitled "An act for improving 
navigation of the Mohawk river, Wood creek and Onondaga 
river, with a view of opening an inland navigation to 
Oswego and for extending the same, if practicable, to Lake 

This was undoubtedly predicated upon the petition from 
Christopher Colles, with a report of the practicability of ren- 
dering the Mohawk river navigable, which was presented to 
the Assembly and referred to the committee, of which Mr. 
Jeffrey Smith was chairman. 

On March 25, 1786, the committee of the whole, through 
its chairman, Mr. N. Smith, reported that it had made some 
progress in the consideration thereof and was granted leave 
to sit again. The same action was taken on the report of a 
committee on March 29th, April 4th and April 5th, 1786, 
but the session adjourned without taking further action in 
relation to the matter. 

It would be exceedingly interesting to peruse the debates 
on that occasion had they been preserved by an adequate 
system of stenographic reporting, but, unfortunately, they 
were not preserved and we are left largely to conjecture as 
to what was said by the prominent men in the Assembly at 
that time upon the report of Christopher Colles then under 

The debate, however, undoubtedly centered public atten- 
tion upon the feasibility of a waterway through the State 
which would afford a far better means of communication 
than theretofore existed. Furthermore, it was a step leading 
up to important legislation which soon followed. 

In 1791 Governor George Clinton in his address to the 
Legislature, among other things, said in relation to internal 
improvements that "Our frontier settlements, freed from 
apprehension of danger, are rapidly increasing, and must 
soon yield extensive resources for profitable commerce; 



this consideration forcibly recommends the policy of con- 
tinuing to facilitate the means of communication with them, 
as well to strengthen the bands of society as to prevent the 
produce of those fertile districts from being diverted to 
other markets." 

V. Further Evolution — The Inland Lock Naviga- 
tion Companies. 

The next step in the evolution of internal improvements 
was taken in the Senate by Elisha Williams in 1791, when 
he introduced a resolution "to appoint a joint committee to 
examine what new roads are necessary to be opened in this 
State, and what obstructions in the Hudson and Mohawk 
rivers will be proper to be removed, and to report thereon, 
with their opinion of the most eligible mode for effecting 
the same, and defraying the expense thereof," which was 
favorably acted upon by both Houses in a report made to 
the Assembly by Col. James Livingston, of Montgomery 
County, recorded as follows: 

"Mr. Livingston, from the committee of this House, consisting of 
a member from each county in the State, appointed on a joint com- 
mittee, with a committee of the honorable the Senate, to examine 
and report relative to roads and inland navigation, reported, that it is 
the opinion of the committee that the commissioners of the land 
office be authorized to make and offer proposals to such person or 
association of persons as will contract to open a water communica- 
tion between the Mohawk river and Wood creek; and such person or 
persons as will remove impediments to the navigation of boats be- 
tween Rensselaerwyck and Fort Edward; and such person or per- 
sons as will open a water communication between Fort Edward and 
Lake Champlain ; with power to grant such person or persons an 
exclusive right to the profits of a reasonable toll on the canals when 
so opened for a limited term of years — and further, that it is the 
opinion of the committee, that the rivers Delaware and Susque- 
hannah, with their navigable branches, ought to be made public high- 
ways ; and that provision by law ought to be made for removing and 
preventing any obstructions that now are, or hereafter shall be made 
in the free navigation thereof. And that the committee are further 
of opinion, that the commissioners of the land office be requested to 


report to this House what new roads are proper to be laid out at 
this time, and whether any and what legislative provision is neces- 
sary for that purpose." 

Such report was committed to a committee of the whole 
House, whereupon the following proceedings were had on 
Monday, February 23, 1791 : 

"Mr. Livingston, pursuant to notice by him given for that pur- 
pose yesterday, moved for leave to bring in a bill entitled An Act 
for opening communications between Wood creek and Mohawk river, 
and between Lake Champlain and Hudson river, and for removing 
certain obstructions in the Hudson and Mohawk rivers. 

"Ordered, That leave be given accordingly. 

"Mr. Livingston, according to leave, brought in the said bill, 
which was read the first time, and ordered a second reading. 

"Mr. Barker, from the committee of the whole House on the re- 
port of the committee relative to roads and inland navigation, as en- 
tered on the journals of this House of the 26th instant, reported, that 
the committee agreed to certain resolutions, which he was directed 
to report to the House ; and he read the report in his place, and de- 
livered a copy of the said resolutions in at the table, where the same 
were again read, and agreed to by the House. Thereupon, 

"Resolved, That that part of the same report which contains the 
opinion of the committee, that the commissioners of the land office be 
authorized to make and offer proposals to such person or association ■ 
of persons as will contract to open a water communication between 
the Mohawk river and Wood creek, and such person or persons as 
will remove impediments to the navigation of boats between Rens- 
selaenvyck and Fort Edward, and such person or persons as will 
open a water communication between the river Hudson and lake 
Champlain, with power to grant such persons an exclusive right to 
the profits of a reasonable toll on the canals so opened for a limited 
term of years, be committed to a committee of the whole house on 
the bill last mentioned. 

"Resolved, That that part of the same report which contains the 
opinion of the committee, that the rivers Delaware and Susquehan- 
nah, with their navigable branches, ought to be made public high- 
ways, and provision by law be made for removing and preventing 
any obstructions that now are, or hereafter shall be made in the free 
navigation therein, be committed to a committee of the whole house, 
on the bill entitled An Act to prevent the obstructions of the naviga- 
tion in the rivers Delaware and Susquehannah. 


"Resolved, If the honorable Senate concur therein, that the com- 
missioners of the land office be requested to report to the Legislature 
as soon as conveniently may be, what new roads are necessary to be 
opened within this State, and what legislative provision may be 
necessary for that purpose. "' 

In conformity thereto, on March 24, 1791, an act was 
passed entitled "An Act concerning - roads and inland navi- 
gation,'"' which contained the following provision : 

"And be it further enacted, that the commissioners of the land 
office be and they are hereby authorized to cause to be explored, and 
the necessary survey made of the ground situate between the Mo- 
hawk river at or near Fort Stanwix, and the Wood creek in the 
county of Washington, and to cause an estimate to be made of the 
probable expense that will attend the making canals sufficient for 
loaded boats." 

The sum of $250 was appropriated' to defray the expenses 
of the commission. The necessary surveys were made, and 
the junction canal between the Mohawk river and the Wood 
creek was laid out by Major Abraham Hardenburgh, an 
experienced and skillful surveyor, assisted by Benjamin 
Wright, in June or September, 1 791, along the route after- 
wards followed by the Western Inland Lock Navigation 
Company, substantially in the direction of the new T barge 
canal now being constructed between Mohawk river and 
Wood creek. The expense of the Hardenburgh survey 
under the commissioners of the land office was $149.70, and 
their report was submitted to the Legislature by Governor 
George Clinton on January 5, 1792, in his speech made on 
that occasion, in which he said : 

"The Legislature at their last meeting, impressed with the im- 
portance, not only to the agriculture and commerce of the State, but 
even to the influence of the laws, of improving the means of com- 
munication, directed the commissioners of the land office to cause 
the ground between the Mohawk river and the Wood creek in the 
county of Washington, to be explored and surveyed, and estimates to 
be formed of the expense of joining those waters by canals. I now 
submit to you their report, which ascertains the practicability of 
effecting this object at a very moderate expense; and I trust that a 
measure so interesting to the community will continue to command 
the attention due to its importance, and especially as the resources. 


of the State will prove adequate to these and other useful improve- 
ments, without the aid of taxes." 

In September, 1791, Elkanah Watson in company with 
General Van Courtland, Stephen Bayard and Jeremiah Van 
Rensselaer made a journey from the Hudson river to Seneca 
lake and kept a journal of his travels. In speaking of the 
salt manufacture at Onondaga he says: 

"These works are in a rude, unfinished state, — but are capable of 
making about eight thousand bushels of salt per annum; which is 
nearly the quantity required for the present consumption of the 
country. . . . Providence has happily placed this great source 
of comfort, and wealth, precisely in a position accessible by water in 
every direction. 

"When the mighty canals shall be formed, and locks erected, it 
will add vastly to the facility of an extended diffusion, and the in- 
crease of its intrinsic worth. It will enter Ontario and the other 
great lakes, and find its way down the St. Lawrence, by Oswego ; 
into Pennsylvania, and the Chesapeake, up Seneca river, to the head 
of the Seneca lake, and by a portage (perhaps eventually a canal) of 
eighteen miles, to Newtown, on the Susquehanna river : and through 
the canals in contemplation, up Wood creek, and down the Mohawk 
river, into the Hudson." 1 

After his return from Seneca Falls, Elkanah Watson 
made a report, based upon his journal and what he had 
observed of a route for intersecting canals between the 
Mohawk river and Seneca lake, setting forth the probable 
expense thereof and concluding with the following state- 
ment : 

"To investigate or attempt to point out the advantages which 
would result to the Union, to the State, or to individuals, from this 
navigation being laid completely open, would require a folio volume. 
It may at once be safely presumed that it would accommodate boat 
navigation for at least 1,000 miles of shore (taking Mohawk river 
with its various branches, and the other rivers and lakes) within 
the boundaries of this State, exclusive of all the great lakes of Can- 
ada. The man or men who are instrumental in bringing those im- 
provements forward, will, in fact, be instrumental in creating many 
thousand citizens for America, in process of time, by advancing ac- 
commodations and subsistence for thousands. It is a matter of great 

I. Zfr. 42, 43« 


doubt, in respect to the acquisition of produce to the State, in open- 
ing the navigation to Lake Champlain, or to the western country, 
which of these objects deserves most of our attention. As iL respects 
commerce and new sources, I cannot determine ; but considered in 
another point of view, the preference is indisputably in favor of 
opening the western communication first. I mean the rivalship sub- 
sisting between this State and Pennsylvania, and the efforts the lat- 
ter State is now making to divert the western country of Philadel- 
phia, which, in a state of nature, is by far the richest part of this 

On January 3, 1792, the commissioners of the Land 
Office reported that in their opinion water communication 
could be established between Albany and Seneca lake by 
means of locks and canals, utilizing the natural streams of 
water, for the sum of $200,000. This report was trans- 
mitted to the Legislature by Governor Clinton, in which he 
said: "I trust that a measure so interesting to the com- 
munity will continue to command the attention due to its 
importance and especially as the resources of the State will 
prove adequate to this and other useful improvements, 
without the aid of taxation." The report and accompanying 
message were referred to a joint committee of both Houses, 
and on February 7th Senator Williams introduced a bill 
entitled : "An Act for constructing and opening a canal and 
lock navigation in the northern and western part of the 
State." Gen. Philip Schuyler and Elkanah Watson were 
among its warmest advocates. 

It was not originally contemplated by some of the advo- 
cates of water communication to do more than effect water 
communication between the Mohawk and Oneida lake, but 
Elkanah Watson wrote to General Schuyler that "to stop at 
that point (Fort Stanwix), will be half doing the business." 
. . . "The charter should stretch to the Seneca lake and 
to the harbor of Oswego as suggested in my journals," 
. ' . . "so as to admit the commerce of the Great Lakes 
into the Hudson river." x In reply thereto, under date of 
March 4, 1792. General Philip Schuyler says: 

1. "History of the Canal System of the State of New York," by Noble E. 
Whitford (Supplement Report N. Y. State Engineer, 1905), 22, 33. 


"A joint committee of both Houses (of which committee I was 
not one) had been formed: This reported a bill for incorporating 
two companies, one for the western, and another for the northern 
navigation. The former was to have carried no farther than the 
Oneida lake. The bill contemplated a commencement of the works 
from the navigable waters of the Hudson, and to be thence continued 
to the point I have mentioned, and it obliged the corporation, in a 
given number of years (which was intended to be ten) to the com- 
pletion of the whole western navigation. When this bill was intro- 
duced in the Senate, the plan generally appeared to me so excep- 
tionable, that I thought it incumbent on me to state my ideas on the 
subject at large. They were approved of unanimously by the com- 
mittee of the whole house, and I was requested to draught a new 
bill. This was done, and it has met with the approbation of the 
committee of the whole." 1 

Among the letters published at the time in the New York 
State Journal and Patriotic Register, and presumably writ- 
ten by Elkanah Watson in advocacy of establishing water 
communication between the Great Lakes and the Hudson 
river, one states : 

"It appears that every natural advantage is in favor of New 
York: provided only attention is paid to promote the improvements 
necessary; and it merits a serious consideration, that although nature 
has favored this quarter, yet, through inattention, the channel of 
commerce may receive an early bias to a different point: and com- 
merce is of such a nature, that when once established in any direc- 
tion, it is generally found difficult to divert it." 

This report by Elkanah Watson evidently made a deep 
impression upon the mind of General Schuyler. It was fol- 
lowed by a letter from Elkanah Watson to General Philip 
Schuyler in February, 1792, in which he says: 

"I have been attentive to the progress of the great object of the 
Western canals since the commencement of the session of the Legis- 

"I observe, with great regret, that no one of that body (not even 
the Governor) appears to soar beyond Fort Stanwix except yourself. 
To stop at that point will be half doing the business. Although we 
may not be able to accomplish the whole plan for years to come, yet 
the improvements on Wood creek are indispensable to make the con- 

x. lb. 33. 


templated canal at Fort Stanwix of any value, the charter should 
stretch to the Seneca lake, and to the harbor of Oswego, as suggested 
in my journals, which you have perused; and in conformity to our 
conversations, so as to admit the commerce of the great lakes into 
the Hudson river, and vice versa. . . . 

"I am well aware the whole extent of this great enterprise can- 
not be accomplished, perhaps, in this generation; but rest assured, 
Sir, if the charter or act of incorporation can be so shaped, as to 
embrace the whole extent of the objects we contemplate, and a 
period of sufficient extent, say twenty years, is allowed for their com- 
pletion, the plan would be held up constantly to the view of a new 
generation, which will rise in the west like magic. And this very 
enterprise will be one means of producing that effect in a certain 
degree, as I have no doubt the canals will keep pace with the 
progress of population. In other words, if a fair experiment is 
made, and it shall be found useful to the community and encour- 
aging to the adverturers, (for I fear the State will not dare to em- 
bark, although a state object) we can have no reasonable appre- 
hension but it will succeed. I have conversed very fully with James 
Watson, and my uncle. Judge Hobart, on this great enterprise: they 
appear deeply impressed with the importance of our views, although 
they appear to want faith. They think we are too sanguine, and 
half a century too soon in the project. I think not: and I am so 
well convinced to the contrary, that I am determined to do my 
utmost to co-operate with your enlarged views on this very import- 
ant subject; and I will, if you deem it necesary, proceed to New 
York again, to afford you every aid in my power, I am, Sir, 

"E. Watson." 

Replying to Elkanah Watson, in a letter dated New York, 
March 4, 1792, General Schuyler wrote: 

"Sir — The letter which I had the pleasure to receive from you 
would have been acknowledged at a more early day: sickness was 
one cause which prevented ; and another, proceeded from a wish to 
be able to communicate something decisive on the subject of your 

"A joint committee of both Houses (of which committee I was 
not one) had been formed : this reported a bill for incorporating two 
companies, one for the western, and another of the northern naviga- 
tion. The former was to have been carried no farther than the 
Oneida lake. The bill contemplated a commencement of the works 
from the navigable waters of the Hudson, and to be thence con- 


tinned to the point I have mentioned, and it obliged the corporation, 
in a given number of years (which was intended to be ten) to the 
completion of the whole western navigation. When this bill was in- 
troduced into the Senate, the plan generally appeared to me so ex- 
ceptionable, that I thought it incumbent on me to state my ideas on 
the subject at large. They were approved of unanimously by the com- 
mittee of the whole house, and I was requested to draught a new 
bill. This was done, and it has met with the approbation of the 
committee of the whole, and will be completed tomorrow by filling 
up the blanks. By this bill two companies are to be incorporated, 
one for the western, and the other for the northern navigation. It 
is proposed that each shall be opened by commisioners at New York 
and Albany; that the books shall be kept open a month; that if 
more than one thousand shares are subscribed, the access [excess] 
shall be deducted from each subscription pro rata, so, nevertheless, 
as that no subscriber shall have less than one share, that every sub- 
scriber shall pay at the time of subscription, say thirty dollars ; and 
that the directors of the incorporation shall, from time to time, as 
occasion may require, call on the subscribers for additional monies 
to prosecute the work to effect: whence the whole sum for each 
share is left indefinite. 

"The western company are to begin their works at Schenectady, 

and to proceed to Wood creek. If this part is not completed in 

years, say six or eight, then the corporation is to cease; but having 

completed this in years more, say ten, they are to be allowed 

for extending the works to the Seneca lake and to Lake Ontario. 
And if not completed within that term, then the incorporation to 
cease so far forth only as relates to the western navigation from 
Wood creek to the two lakes. The State is to make an immediate do- 
nation of money, which I proposed at ten thousand pounds for each 
company, but which I fear will be reduced to five thousand pounds 
for each company. I thought it best that the operations should begin 
at Schenectady, lest the very heavy expense of a canal either directly 
from Albany to Schenectady, or by the way of the Cahoos or Half- 
moon, might have retarded, if not have totally arrested, at least for 
a long time, the navigation into the western country: and conceiving 
that, if the navigation from Schenectady to the Cohoos was com- 
pleted, the continuation of it from Schenectady to the Hudson 
would eventually and certainly take place. A given toll per ton will 
be permitted for the whole extent from the Hudson to the lakes, and 
this toll will be divided by the directors to every part of the canals 
and navigation in proportion to the distances which any boat may 
use the navigation. Provision is made, that if the toll does not pro- 


duce, in a given time, six per cent., the directors may increase it 
until it does; but the corporation is ultimately confined to a divi- 
dend of fifteen per cent. Both corporations are in perpetuity, pro- 
vided the works are completed in the times above mentioned. 

"The size of the boats which the canals are to carry is not yet 
determined. I believe it will be, that they shall draw, when loaded, 
two and a half feet of water. This is substantially the bill, as far 
as it relates to the western navigation. 

"The northern company is to commence its work at Troy, and to 
deepen the channels at Lansingburgh, so as to carry vessels of 
greater burthen to that place than are now capable of going there. 
The blank for this purpose I think will be filled up with two feet; 
that is, the channel is to be deepened two feet. From Lansingburgh 
the navigation is to be improved by deepening the river by locks and 
canals to Fort Edward, or some point near it, and thence to be car- 
ried to Wood creek, or some of its branches, and extended to Lake 
Champlain. Tolls, &c, are to be on the same principles as in the 
western navigation. A clause was proposed for preventing any 
canals to the Susquehannah, but it was lost: it being conceived im- 
proper to oblige the inhabitants of the western country to make Hud- 
sons river, or the commercial towns on it, the only markets. 

"In the prosecution of these capital objects, I have to combine the 
interests of the community at large with those of my more immedi- 
ate constituents. What the result will be, time must determine. I 
shall, however, be happy if my ideas on the subject shall meet the 
approbation of gentlemen more conversant with those matters than 
I can be supposed to be. 

"Excuse the many incorrections of this scrawl : I have not time 
to make a fair copy. And be so good as to communicate the con- 
tents to such gentlemen as feel an interest in the completion of those 
great objects which are the subject of it. 

"I am, Sir, with regard, your obedient servant, 

"Philip Schuyler. 
"E. Watson, Esq." 

Undoubtedly, General Philip Schuyler, who had served 
as a member of the joint commission, appointed on February 
15, 1791, composed of both Senate and Assembly, to inquire 
how the obstructions to navigation in the Hudson and Mo- 
hawk rivers might be overcome or remedied by the construc- 
tion of artificial waterways, seconding their natural ad- 
vantages, of which commission he was chairman, acquired 


valuable in f urination as to the topography of the country 
and the desirability of opening up navigation between Wood 
creek and the Mohawk river and between Lake Champlain 
and the Hudson river; and this information, together with 
that laid before him in the report of Elkanah Watson, fur- 
nished the basis for his remarks on the occasion of the in- 
troduction of the bill by General Williams, entitled "An Act 
for constructing and opening a canal and lock navigation in 
the northern and western parts of this State," in which 
speech he appears to have convinced the Senate that the plan 
as presented by General Williams, ought to be modified in 
certain respects, and General Schuyler was requested to 
embody his views in a bill, which he did, and the same was 
entitled "An Act for establishing and opening lock naviga- 
tions in this State. " 

General Philip Schuyler was a descendant of the Dutch 
of Holland. They were familiar with the canals of that 
country, which had been in operation several hundred years, 
and it might have been expected that so distinguished a 
citizen of New York, familiar as he was from his travels 
abroad, with canal construction in Europe, would take a 
deep interest in establishing water communication through 
the interior of this State. He became the chief advocate on 
the floor of the Senate of the act which bears his name, and 
which resulted in the incorporation of the Western Inland 
Lock Navigation Company and the Northern Inland Navi- 
gation Company, in 1792. They were the earliest canal 
laws passed by the State of New York, and are interesting 
in the history of New York's canal system as an evidence 
of the interest taken at that early day by some of her fore- 
most citizens in a policy destined to make New York the 
chief commercial State of the Union. 

The bill was put into its final form by General Schuyler, 
passed the Legislature on March 24th and the Council of 
Revision on March 30, 1792, and became Chapter 40 of the 
Laws of 1792, entitled "An Act for establishing and open- 
ing lock navigation within the State." 

Two corporations were formed, one for the purpose of 
opening a lock navigation from the navigable part of the 


Hudson river to Lake Ontario and Seneca lake, to be known 
by the name of "The president, directors and company of 
the Western inland lock navigation in the State of New 
York" ; the other for opening navigation from the navigable 
portion of the Hudson river to Lake Champlain, and to be 
known by the name of "The president, directors and com- 
pany of the Northern inland lock navigation in the State 
of New York," each with a capital stock of one thousand 
shares and with boards of commissioners authorized to open 
books for subscription? to the capital stock. 

General Schuyler headed the list of the boards of direc- 
tors of both of these companies. These corporations were 
authorized to exercise the power of condemnation, to impose 
tolls upon the traffic not exceeding "the sum of $25 for 
every ton of the burden of such boat or vessel" passing be- 
tween the Hudson river and Seneca lake and Lake Ontario, 
and between the Hudson river and Lake Champlain. 

The Western company was required to complete its work 
from Schenectady to Wood creek in five years, and the 
boats navigating the locks were to draw two feet of water, 
and their length not to exceed forty feet, their width not to 
exceed twenty feet. In the event these water communica- 
tions were not made within fifteen years, then all rights of 
the company were to cease and their corporate property 
revert to the people of the State. 

Such act further provided that the State would appro- 
priate to the said corporations a subsidy of $12,500 when 
they had each expended the sum of $25,000, which subsidy 
was to be expended in the further development of the under- 

During the second session of the Legislature in the year 
1792, another Act was passed, known as Chapter 8, amend- 
ing the original Act incorporating the companies in several 
material respects. Among other things it provided that the 
locks should not be less than ten feet in width nor less than 
seventy feet in length, and the water in the locks should be 
of sufficient depth to allow vessels drawing two feet of water 
to pass through them. 


In 1792, General Philip Schuyler, Goldsbrow Banyar and 
Elkanah Watson made their report on the western waters 
of the State of New York, wherein they described their 
journey from Schenectady to Wood creek, giving distances, 
depth of water, condition of the channel on the Mohawk 
river, and other important data in relation to the natural 
watercourses between the Hudson and Oneida lake. They 
also describe the portage from the Mohawk to Wood creek, 
which they say is "81 chains through level grounds and 
swamps, the Mohawk about two feet higher than Wood 
creek." Proceeding they say further : 

"Mr. Schuyler descended Wood Creek in a batteau. He found 
obstructions occasioned by timber, or rapids from the landing at the 
place where Fort Newport formerly stood, to that where Fort Bull 
was erected, quite trifling; but the Creek was so shallow that the 
batteau could not have passed without the aid of water previously 
collected in Mr. Lynch's dam. From Fori Bull to where Canada 
Creek enters Wood Creek, the rapids are many and sharp, with little 
water, the obstructions from timber trifling. From Canada Creek 
he walked about half a mile down and found a sufficiency of water; 
from thence to the Oneida Lake he was informed the navigation was 
greatly impeded by timber in the creek, as well as by many short 
turns." 2 * 

General Philip Schuyler was chosen president of the 
Western Inland Lock Navigation Company and Messrs. 
Thomas Eddy, Jeremiah Van Rensselaer, Barent Bleecker, 
Elkanah Watson and Robert Brown were among its most 
influential members. 

In the first report of the directors bearing the signature 
of Philip Schuyler as president, made to the Legislature of 
the State of New York in 1795, they say: 

"In the summer and fall, ensuing the incorporation of the sub- 
scribers to the said companies, surveys were made on the Western 
route, from Schenectady to Wood Creek, and on the Northern route, 
from the head of the tide water of Hudson's river to Fort Edward; 
thence to the Northern Wood Creek, and down the same, to its 
junction with Lake Champlain. . . . The work was accordingly 

3 Doc. Hist. N. Y., 663. 


commenced in April, 1793, . . . but its progress was arrested 
early in September, for want of funds. . . . In January, 1794, 
the work was, however, recommenced, although feebly, and some 
progress made, in hopes that the Legislature would afford aid, by 
grants, or loans of money, or by taking the unsubscribed shares. 
Accordingly, the Legislature, sensible of the propriety of relieving 
the stockholders . . • directed a subscription on the part of the 

people of the State, of two hundred shares to each company; this 
measure was attended with the most salutary effects. ... It 
was the 17th of November before the canal and locks were so far 
completed as to afford a passage to boats. . . . Each boat 
was navigated by three men, and a voyage from Fort Schuyler to 
Schenectady, a distance of 112 miles, and back to the former place, 
was made at a mean in nine days. Thus transportation of a ton of 
produce, if no back freight offered, was equivalent to one man's 
wages for 18 days ; the canal and locks can pass boats of 32 tons 
burthen and upwards, but impediments in the river, still to be re- 
moved, between Schenectady and the falls, and between the latter 
place and Fort Schuyler, prevent the use of boats of more burthen 
than ten or eleven tons. Each of these is navigated by five men 
and make the same voyage in fourteen days which, if no back freight 
offers, is at the rate of seven days' wages of one man for one ton ; 
but until improvements shall be made in the river below and above 
the falls, these boats, when the water in the river is in its lowest 
state, which is usually from the middle of July to the close of Sep- 
tember, can only convey about five or six tons in that period, then 
the transportation of a ton between the places aforesaid, is equal to 
the wages of one man for fourteen days, affording still an important 
saving. The whole time taken to pass the canal and locks does not 
exceed three quarters of an hour; the same burthen transported as 
heretofore by land, caused a detention at the very least, of an entire 
day and often more; . . . when a canal of little more than a 
mile and a half in length, through grounds unincumbered with rocks 
and chiefly cultivated, shall connect the waters of the Mohawk river 
with those of Wood creek, and when that creek shall be improved 
and some trifling obstructions removed in some few places, in the 
Onondaga and Seneca rivers, for then boats of ten tons burthen and 
more, may with facility be navigated to the most remote end of the 
Cayuga lake. . . . The directors have already determined to 
form the canal, between Mohawk river and Wood creek, at Fort 
Schuyler. ... In the summer of 1793 the directors caused 
Wood creek to be cleared of the timber which had fallen into it in 
such quantity as almost altogether obstructed the navigation. 


''In the year 1793, the northern company commenced a canal in 
the vicinity of Still Water, intending to extend it to Waterford. 
. . . A contract was made in that year for constructing a canal 
and locks, to open the navigation of the northern Wood creek, with 
Lake Champlain, obstructed by the falls at Skeensborough. The ex- 
cavation of the canal through solid rock is nearly completed, and the 
locks will be constructed and finished in the present year [1795?]. 
. In 1794 the northern Wood creek was partially cleared of 
the timber which had fallen into it, and boats capable of passing 
from the falls of Skeensborough. to near Fort Ann; and as the road 
between these two places is exceedingly bad and deep, very consider- 
able advantage has resulted from the operation" [of such transpor- 
tation by water]. 

■ : 

A few boats passed through the locks at Little Falls on 
the Mohawk in the fall of 1795. In December, 1795, Mr. 
William Weston, engineer, made an official report to the 
directors of the Western and Northern Inland Lock Navi- 
gation companies, in which he gives in detail an account of 
the work done prior thereto by such companies and the work 
remaining to be done, in order to further improve the navi- 
gability of the Mohawk and other intercepting waters, be- 
tween the Hudson on the east and Ontario and Seneca lakes 
on the west. With this report he also submitted a detailed 
estimate of the expenses of the improvements recommended 
by him. 

General Philip Schuyler had visited England in 1761 and 
there saw the canal extending from the coal mines of Wars- 
ley to Manchester with its aqueduct over the Irwell, by 
means of which vessels were transported forty feet above 
that stream. Pie learned that this (Duke's) canal reduced the 
price of transportation one-half and he believed that a canal 
between Lake Champlain and the Hudson river would prove 
a commercial success and be very advantageous to the in- 
habitants of the colony. In his argument in the State 
Senate thereafter in 1792, it is apparent that the information 
in regard to canals derived from his European trip and his 
correspondence with Prof. P>rand of London in relation to 
the success of the Duke's canal made a deep impression on 
his mind. His suggestion of the feasibility of the construe- 


tion of water communication between Lake Champlain and 
the Hudson river is the earliest, or among the earliest, of 
anything of the kind in this country. In the memorial writ- 
ten after his death by Joseph Dermic, editor of the Port 
Folio and published in that periodical in February 1810, 
occurs this signal tribute to General Schuyler: "The General 
was a practical man in his whole life ; and though he pur- 
sued the execution of well digested plans with the enthusi- 
asm of a projector, he never suffered soaring fancy to dis- 
turb the balance of sober reason." 

The Western Inland Lock Navigation company built five 
locks at Little Falls in a space of 2^4 miles and a canal ij4 
miles long at German Flats, and another two miles and three 
chains long from the Mohawk to Wood creek, at an expense 
far exceeding the original estimate of $200,000, "to open lock 
navigation from the Hudson river to Seneca lake." The 
amount finally expended for that purpose aggregated 

The Northern Inland Lock Navigation company ex- 
pended upwards of $100,000. One of the causes for this in- 
creased expenditure was the necessity for the reconstruction 
of the wooden locks at Little Falls, German Flats and Rome 
in six years, and these were replaced by locks made of brick 
and mortar of so poor a quality that they also gave way in 
a short time and it became necessary to rebuild them of 
stone, which was done under the superintendence of Mr. 
Weston, who was a practical engineer from England. 

The treasurer of these companies was Thomas Eddy of 
New York City, who was the first advocate of uniting 
Seneca river with the Mohawk. 

The canal had a bottom width of 26 feet, a surface width 
of 35 feet and a depth of 3 feet. In 1796 boats of sixteen 
tons burthen were plying between Schenectady and Seneca 

In 1797, a canal two miles and three chains in length, 37^ 
feet in width, with a prism to admit of boats drawing 3^ 
feet of water was completed between the Mohawk river and 
Wood creek, which had two locks, one of ten and the other 
of eight feet lift. A short time thereafter a canal 134 feet in 


depth, with two locks was completed at the German Flats, 
but all attempts at improving the navigation of the Mohawk 
by clams were unavailing and the Western Inland Lock 
Navigation company in its report to the Legislature in 1798 
disclaims "all idea of a canal along the banks of the Mohawk 
east of Little Falls." Elkanah Watson says: 

"The utmost stretch of our views, was to follow the track of 
Nature's canal, and to remove natural or artificial obstructions; but 
we never entertained the most distant conception of a canal from 
Lake Erie to the Hudson. We should not have considered it much 
more extravagant to have suggested the possibility of a canal to the 
moon." "The projectors of the grand canal, from Lake Erie to the 
Hudson, have soared to a sublime height, in conceiving at once the 
boldest and most daring attempt, — and, in its consequences, the most 
important to society, ever encountered by the genius of man. The 
immense expenditures to be encountered by this State, single-handed, 
is the only serious consideration. Prudence whispers softly in the 
ear of caution, is it safe to plunge the State into a debt of five or 
six millions of dollars, upon an untried experiment? As to the final 
result, no one can reasonably doubt. My only difficulty has been, 
whether it were prudent to complete the whole chain, without deriv- 
ing, from the liberal experiment of the middle section, some proofs 
for a few years, as to its effects and products. I offer this remark 
with some diffidence, having but recently turned my attention closely 
to the subject of the grand canal." 

By Chapter 36, laws of 1797, the Western Inland Lock 
Navigation Company was authorized to secure a loan of 
$250,000 to carry on its work and by Chapter 101 of the 
laws of 1798, an extension of five years' time was granted 
for the completion of the work. 

In 1798 the Niagara Canal company was incorporated 
with authority to construct a canal six miles long, from 
Lake Erie to Lake Ontario, which was to have numerous 
locks, providing for navigation thereof by vessels seventy 
feet in length, sixteen feet in breadth and of four feet 




Gouverneur Morris, lawyer, orator, statesman, diplomat 
and United States Senator, was Minister Plenipotentiary to 
France, 1792-4, and had visited other parts of Europe there- 
tofore and was familiar with the internal waterway systems. 
In his letter to John Parish of Hamburgh, dated at Wash- 
ington, December 20, 1800, after his return from Europe in 
1799, he portrays in glowing terms the natural features of 
that portion of our country bounded by the Great Lakes and 
the St. Lawrence on the northwest and Hudson river and 
lakes George and Champlain on the east, and is rather 
exuberant in his anticipations of its development. He insti- 
tutes a comparison between the Hudson and the Elbe, 
St. Lawrence and the Danube, Lake George and the Lake 
of Geneva, the brilliancy of our atmosphere and that of 
Italy ; and after forecasting, in what then might be regarded 
as visionary expressions, the vastness of our inland com- 
merce that would float down the Great Lakes, saying, "Hun- 
dreds of large ships will at no distant period bound on the 
billows of those inland seas," he concludes a portion of his 
most interesting letter in these words: "The proudest em- 
pire in Europe is but a bauble compared to what America 
will be, must be in the course of two centuries, perhaps of 

General Morgan Lewis in a letter, dated at Staatsburgh, 
May 26, 1828, in speaking of the visit of Gouverneur Morris 
at General Philip Schuyler's headquarters at Fort Edward 
in 1777, says: "Our evenings were usually passed together 
(that is Mr. Morris, General Schuyler and myself were 
quartered in the same house), and the state of our affairs 
generally were the subject of conversation. . . . One 
evening in particular while describing in the most animated 
and glowing terms, the rapid march of the useful arts 
through our country, when once freed from a foreign yoke ; 
the spirit with which agriculture and commerce, both inter- 
nal and external, would advance ; the facilities, which would 
be offered them by the numerous watercourses intersecting 
our country, and the ease with which they might be made 


to communicate; he announced in language highly poetic, 
and to which I cannot do justice, that at no distant day, the 
waters of the great western inland seas, would by the aid of 
man, break through their barriers and mingle with those of 
the Hudson." 

Mr. Lewis then asked Mr. Morris : "How they were to 
break through these barriers? To which he replied that 
numerous streams passed through natural channels and that 
artificial ones might be conducted by the same routes." x 
Thus was predicted artificial water communication in this 
State as early as 1777, by one of its most distinguished 

In a letter addressed to William Darby, in 1822, from 
Simeon De Witt, the surveyor general of the State of New 
York, he says: 

"The merit of first starting the idea of a direct communication by 
water, between Lake Erie and the Hudson, unquestionably belongs to 
Gouverneur Morris. The first suggestion I had of it was from him. 
In 1803, I accidentally met him at Schenectady. We put up for the 
night at the same inn, and passed the evening together. Among the 
numerous topics of conversation, to which his prolific mind and ex- 
cessive imagination gave birth, was that of improving the means of 
intercourse with the interior of this State. He then mentioned the 
project of tapping Lake Eric, as he expressed himself, and leading 
its waters, in an artificial river across the country to the Hudson. 
To this I very naturally opposed the intermediate hills and valleys as 
insuperable obstacles. His answer was, in substance, 'Labor improbus 
omnia vincet' ; and that the subject would justify the labor and ex- 
pense, whatever it might be. Considering this as a romantic thing, 
and characteristic of the man, I related it on several occasions. Mr. 
Geddes now reminds me that I mentioned it to him in 1804, when he 
was a member of the Legislature; and adds, that afterwards, when 
in company with Jesse Hawley, it became a subject of conversation, 
which probably led to inquiries that induced him to write the essays 
which afterwards appeared in the newspapers, on the subject of 
carrying a canal from Lake Erie to Albany, through the interior of 
the country, without going by way of Lake Ontario." 2 

While standing at Fort Erie near the outlet of Lake 
Erie, in 1800, Gouverneur Morris in contemplating the 

1. Hcsack's Memoir of Clinton, 250, 251. 

2. 2 Pubs. Buf. Hist. Soc., 26. 


magnitude of the commerce which eventually would be 
seen at the foot of the Great Lakes, said : 

"Here, as in turning a point of wood, the lake broke in on my 
view, I saw, riding at anchor, nine vessels, the least of them of one 
hundred tons. Does it not seem like magic? At this point com- 
mences a navigation of more than a thousand miles. Hundreds of 
large ships will at no distant period bound on the billows of those 
inland seas. . . . One-tenth of the expense borne by Britain in 
the last campaign, would enable ships to sail from London, through 
Hudson's river into Lake Erie. . . . The proudest empire in 
Europe is but a bauble, compared to what America will be, must 
be," etc. 1 

It has been asserted that Gouverneur Morris on this occa- 
sion contemplated the construction of a canal with a uniform 
"declension and without locks from Lake Erie to the Hud- 
son's river," which he assumed would admit of navigation 
by ocean-going vessels, which may, in a measure account 
for his rather extravagant language. But when it is remem- 
bered that the Board of Engineers on Deep Waterways 
made a report to the Government of the United States 
about one hundred years after Gouverneur Morris' proph- 
ecy, in which they recommended the construction of a 
deep waterway from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario and from 
Lake Ontario to the Hudson river, admitting the passage 
of vessels from 480 feet in length, with a width of 54 feet 
and a draft of 21 feet, with a carrying capacity of 8600 tons 
to vessels 540 feet in length, with a width of 60 feet and a 
draft of 28 feet, with a carrying capacity of 12,000 tons; 
and when it is also remembered that 8,353 vessels, having 
an aggregate tonnage of 14.659,242 tons, arrived and de- 
parted from the port of Buffalo during the season of 1907, 
some of which vessels were 605 feet in length, 65 feet in 
width and drew 20 feet of water, having a carrying capacity 
of from 10,000 to 14.000 tons each — vastly larger than the 
ocean-going vessels of his day — it will be seen that the 
prophecy of Gouverneur Morris was not so very extravagant 
after all, even though such vessels were unable to sail from 
"London through the Hudson's river into Lake Erie." 

1. lb. 237. 


Charles C. Brodhead, surveyor and engineer in 1829, in 
reply to an inquiry made of him in relation to conversations 
had with Gouverneur Morris, says: 

"In the year 1S02 or 1803 I met Mr. Morris at Rome, and had a 
conversation with him on the subject of canals. He had just 
ascended the Mohawk in a boat, on a tour to the St. Lawrence by 
way of Oswego; and he inquired very particularly of me as to the 
situation and soil of the land along the Oneida lake, and the banks 
of the Oneida and Oswego rivers, and the country lying between the 
Oneida and Ontario lakes. I do not recollect that Lake Erie was 
mentioned in this conversation, and it is my opinion that it was not. 
After I had answered Mr. Morris' inquiries, he expressed much 
anxiety for a canal from the Hudson river to Lake Ontario." 1 

Benjamin Wright in reply to a similar inquiry, writing 
in the year 1829, says: "Relative to the early views and 
suggestions of Gouverneur Morris in regard to the im- 
provements by water communications, reported at the time 
the conversations or observations were made by him, about 
the year 1800, and soon after that period, they all tend to 
show that Mr. Morris looked only to canaling along the 
valleys of the natural water courses to Lake Ontario, and 
thence connecting Lake Ontario and Lake Erie by improve- 
ments around Niagara Falls, as contemplated by the Act of 
1798." And Judge Wright adds: "I am confident Mr. 
Morris had no local knowledge of the formation of the 
country through the interior at that day; neither do I 
believe he gained any knowledge of the peculiar formation 
of that part of the State, until after the surveys made by 
direction of the State in 180S and 7809. . . . After Mr. 
Morris visited the country as Canal Commissioner in 1S10, 
he took a different view of the whole subject/' 

In his Annual Message to Congress, under date of 
December 2, 1806, President Thomas Jefferson in speaking 
of the application of revenues and the most desirable na- 
tional objects recommends the application of the revenues 
to the "improvements of roads, canals, rivers, education, 
and other great foundations of prosperity and union under 
the powers which Congress may already possess or such 

I. Ib. 239. 


amendment of the Constitution as may be approved by the 
States." 1 

The early part of the nineteenth century marked the 
beginning - of an era of territorial expansion under the 
Ordinance of 1787, and of vast public improvements in the 
United States. The principles of republican institutions 
had been embodied in the Constitution of the United States 
and were in operation in both the National and State Gov- 
ernments. The people began to turn their attention to 
their domestic affairs. The country was new, highways 
were still to be laid out and railways were unknown. Na- 
tural waterways offered the chief means of transportation. 
The familiarity of many prominent statesmen with Euro- 
pean waterways then in successful operation, their knowl- 
edge of the adaptability of the topography of our territory 
for the building of canals and of the facility of transporta- 
tion over them and the necessities of various sections of the 
country in its settlement and development for adequate 
means of transportation, led to the construction of systems 
of canals in several states. Senator Thomas Worthington 
of Ohio, voicing well-defined public sentiment on this sub- 
ject in 1807, introduced a resolution in the Senate of the 
United States, which was adopted on March 2, 1807, in the 
following language : 

"Resolved, That the Secretary of the Treasury be directed to 
prepare and report to the Senate, at their next session, a plan for 
the application of such means as are within the power of Congress, 
to the purposes of opening and making canals ; together with a state- 
ment of the undertakings of that nature which, as objects of public 
improvements, may require and deserve the aid of government; and 
also a statement of works of the nature mentioned which have been 
commenced, the progress which has been made in them, and the 
means and prospects of their being completed, and such information 
as, in the opinion of the Secretary, shall be material in relation to the 
object of this resolution." 

On April 4, 1808, Albert Gallatin, Secretary of the 
Treasury, in obedience to the resolution of the Senate of 

I. "Messages and Papers of the Presidents," by James D. Richardson 
[Washington, 1900], I, 456. 


March 2, 1807, made his Report on Roads and Canals, con- 
stituting Document No. 250 of the first session of the 10th 
Congress and comprising nearly 200 folio pages on the 
roads and canals, constructed and proposed in the United 

In this extended Report may be found a comprehensive 
review of the canals and canalized rivers of the United 
States then in operation and surveys, maps and estimates of 
many proposed canals. Among other things the Secretary 
says: "The general utility of artificial roads and canals is 
at this time so universally admitted, as hardly to require 
any additional proofs.'' After assigning various reasons 
why the General Government might alone undertake these 
vast public improvements, that were beyond the reach of 
private enterprise or State accomplishment, he continues : 

"The early and efficient aid of the Federal Government is recom- 
mended by still more important considerations. The inconveniences, 
complaints, and perhaps dangers, which may result from a vast extent 
of territory, can not otherwise be radically removed or prevented 
than by opening speedy and easy communication through all its parts. 
Good roads and canals will shorten distance, facilitate commercial 
and personal intercourse, and unite, by a still more intimate com- 
munity of interests, the most remote quarters of the United States. 
No other single operation, within the power of Government, can 
more effectually tend to strengthen and perpetuate that union which 
secures external independence, domestic peace, and internal liberty." 

This broad and patriotic view, however, did not impress 
itself on Congress, as will be hereafter shown. 

After describing several short canals in operation to 
overcome the rapids and falls in various rivers in the At- 
lantic States and the improvements proposed in other rivers 
and the various canals partially constructed or projected in 
Massachusetts, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Penn- 
sylvania, Ohio, Virginia and the Carolinas, the Secretary 
presents surveys and estimates of the cost of construction 
of a canal between the Hudson river and Lake Champlain 
and between Oneida lake and the Hudson river via the 
Mohawk and Wood creek and between Oneida lake and 



Lake Ontario and betweeen Lake Ontario and Lake Erie 
for sloop navigation. 

The cost of the first of these canals was estimated to be 
$800,000, the second to be $2,200,000, and the third to be 
$1,000,000. The first two canals were to be 2 l / 2 feet deep, 
24 feet wide at the bottom and 32 feet wide at the top and 
admit boats of ten tons capacity. In this report may also 
be found a statement of the incorporated companies author- 
ized by the several states to open up water communication 
in their respective territories, including the Western Inland 
Lock and Northern Inland Lock Navigation companies of 
New York and their existing stati. 

The data relating to these companies were taken prin- 
cipally from the report of the Engineer, William Weston, 
to the directors of the Western and Northern Inland Lock 
Navigation companies under date of December 23, 1795, 
and the first Report of the Directors of the Western Inland 
Lock Navigation companies made to the Legislature under 
the date of November, 1795 ; x and from the second Report 
of the directors of the Western Inland Lock Navigation 
Company made to the Legislature on February 16, 1798; 
and from a Report of a Committee appointed by the Direc- 
tors of the Northern Inland Lock Navigation Company 
under date of October 30, 1792; from communications 
of Thomas Eddy to Samuel Osgood, Esq., under date of 
October 29, 1807; from a report made by George Hunt- 
ington to Secretary Albert Gallatin, under date of Decem- 
ber 29, 1807; and from the original and supplemental Acts, 
under which these companies were organized. This report 
of the Secretary of the Treasury recommends an appropria- 
tion of $20,000,000, by the Federal Government, in annual 
installments of $2,000,000 each year for roads and canals, 
the major part of which was to be devoted to opening up 
water navigable communication in the several States consid- 
ered. The research into the history and conditions of canals 
such as that connecting the Red and Mediterranean seas, 
through which passed the fleet of King Solomon to join that 
of Hiram, King of Tyre, to proceed to Ophir in search of 

1. Both of these are printed in 2 Pubs. Buf. Hist. Soc. 


gold x referred to by Herodotus and other historians ; such 
as the Royal canal of Babylon, more than six hundred miles 
in length; such as the Fossa Mariana built by the Romans 
for military purposes about 101 B. C. connecting the Rhone 
and the Mediterranean ; such as the Roman canal connecting 
the Tiber and the sea; such as the Grand canal of China, 
soon to be cleared out and improved by imperial appropria- 
tion recently made, "which," it is said, "discharges itself on 
both sides into a great number of others," accommodating 
"the most part of the towns and villages" and answering 
"the conveniences of travellers and traffic" and other water- 
ways, as well as the wealth of learning displayed in the argu- 
ment of the general utility of artificial waterways, as estab- 
lished by the canals of Holland; by the Languedoc canal, 
1 80 miles in length with its 114 locks and a prism 6 feet in 
depth and 30 feet wide at the bottom and 60 feet wide at the 
surface, connecting two seas ; by the canal of the Duke of 
Bridgewater extending from Worsley to Manchester, and 
many others, and the breadth of view entertained by the pro- 
jectors of these avenues of trade and, travel, together with 
the copiousness of illustration, drawn from the Italian, 
Dutch and French sources, show that the captains of indus- 
try and statesmen of the period fully appreciated in national 
development the importance of an active commerce, in its 
enlarged sense, whereby "the world becomes as it were one 
single family." 

Robert Morris in Pennsylvania was no less zealous than 
were General Philip Schuyler and Robert Fulton in New 
York or General George Washington in Virginia, who with 
many others left nothing unsaid to enlighten their country- 
men and convince them of the advantages of transportation 
by water over any other method then known to man. 

In Massachusetts there was in operation the Middlesex 
canal, 2J miles in length, connecting the Merrimac river with 
Boston harbor, 20 feet wide at the bottom and 3 feet depth 
of prism with 20 locks 75 feet in length and 10 feet wide, 
admitting of the passage of boats of 14 tons capacity, which 
cost $478,000, and was said to be "the best artificial naviga- 

I. I Kings, ch. 9. 


tion in the United States.'' This was subsequently length- 
ened and enlarged. In 1807, Jesse Hawley, formerly en- 
gaged in mercantile business at Geneva, published under the 
nom dc plume of "Hercules" a series of letters, most of 
which appeared in the Genesee Messenger, in advocacy of a 
direct overland water communication between Lake Erie 
and the Hudson. In these he calls attention- to such canals 
as the Languedoc, the Kiel, the Clyde with its prism seven 
feet deep and with locks 75 feet long and 20 feet wide and 
to many others in successful operation in various parts of 
Europe. He discusses very intelligently the possibilities of 
internal waterborne commerce over the natural and pro- 
posed artificial waterways of the state and in such a man- 
ner as to challenge the attention of the people of the state 
and to arouse deep interest in the matter of canal construc- 
tion in this State. 

As early as 1808, inland navigation received legislative 
consideration in New York, when, on motion of Joshua 
Forman of Onondaga, the Assembly adopted a resolution 
providing that "a joint committee be appointed to consider 
the propriety of exploring and surveying the most eligible 
route between the Hudson river and Lake Erie to the end 
that Congress may be enabled to appropriate such sum as 
may be necessary to the accomplishment of the object" of 
effecting water communciation through the State between 
the Great Lakes and the sea, the sum of $600.00 was ap- 
propriated to enable the Surveyor-General "to cause an ac- 
curate survey to be made of the rivers, streams and water 
(not already actually surveyed) in the usual route of com- 
munication between the Hudson river and Lake Erie, and 
such other contemplated routes as he may deem proper.'' 
Judge Forman says: "So intent was the Surveyor-General 
on going through Lake Ontario, that he expended most of 
the money in exploring routes in that direction." The pro- 
jectors of the system of inland waterways fully understood 
its importance and the prestige it would give the State, far 
in the preamble of the concurrent resolution, presented in 
the Assembly on March 27, 180S, by Hon. Thomas R. Gold 
of Oneida County, chairman of the Joint Legislative Com- 


mittce and adopted, are, inter alia, the following significant 
conclusions : 

"In tracing the vestiges of ancient states, in whose councils muni- 
ficence, guided by wisdom, presided, the remains of commercial im- 
provement in public canals and other undertakings, make the ad- 
vanced state of society, and will attest the empire of the arts of 
peace, while military achievement has shed lustre on Nations, works 
of public utility, tending to the happiness and welfare of society, 
record the exercise of superior virtues and afford monuments of 
true and lasting glory. Along the extended route of a contem- 
plated canal from Hudson river through the waters of the Mohawk, 
and the intermediate lakes to Lake Erie, is presented to the eye of 
the traveller, a country uneqnaled for fertility, in so great extent, 
in any part of the United States, and not surpassed, it is believed, 
by the fairest regions of the Eastern World." 

Prior to this, however, the attention of the Legislature 
had been called to various matters in relation to improvement 
of inland navigation, and in 1792, the Western and the 
Northern Inland Lock Navigation Companies, had been in- 
corporated, but the expense of their respective undertakings 
was so great, that it was impossible to carry them to comple- 
tion, and they were finally absorbed by the State in the con- 
struction of its artificial waterways. 

Pursuant to the foregoing concurrent resolution, Mr. 
James Gedcles made his first Report to the Surveyor-General 
of the State in 1809. It was accompanied by maps, en- 
gineering data and other information, communicated to the 
Legislature, setting forth the tentative routes and physical 
obstacles thereto as well as the benefits that would accrue 
from what Simeon De Witt, the Surveyor- General, in 1809, 
denominated "our grand canal." 

VII. The "'Grand" Canal takes Shape. 

The first Commissioners named in the concurrent resolu- 
tions of March 13 and 15, 1810, introduced in the Senate and 
ably supported by Jonas Piatt, were Gouverneur Morris, 
Stephen Van Rensselaer, William North, De Witt Clinton, 
Thomas Eddv, Peter B. Porter and Simeon De Witt. They 


made their first report to the Legislature on March 2, 181 1. 
In it they canvass the project in all its phases and suggest 
that it is for the Legislature to determine whether or not the 
State alone undertake the work, or negouations he opened 
with the National Government for Federal aid. 

In this Report the views of Gouverneur Morris were 
elaborated by him and subsequently embodied in the Report 
of the Commissioners of whom he was President, appointed 
March 13-15, 1810, to explore the route of an inland naviga- 
tion from Hudson river to Lake Ontario and Lake Erie, 
which was transmitted to the Legislature on March 2, 181 1, 
together with the reports and maps of James Geddes, the 
experienced engineer employed by the Surveyor-General to 
make the survey and map of the route from Lake Erie to the 
Hudson. This report was criticised by Dewitt Clinton, al- 
though he was one of the commissioners making it, on the 
ground that "they" (the commissioners), 

"committed the preparation of their draft to the president, Mr. 
Morris, a man of elevated genius, but, being too much under the 
influence of a sublimated imagination, conceiving the sublime idea of 
creating an artificial river from the elevation of Lake Erie to the 
Hudson, he digressed into a long exposition of the facilities and 
advantages of an inclined plane canal, wherein he passed over rivers 
and lakes by aqueducts, and valleys by mounds, in order to maintain 
his descent. When the board assembled to consider the draft, they, 
from motives of delicacy, did not insist upon striking out this part 
of the report, especially as it was hypothetical from its very nature, 
and a mere gratuitous suggestion, in page 30 it says: 'Preliminary 
points are to be ndjusted, and on these the first is whether it is to 
be made for sloops or barges. The expense of the former will, it 
is believed, be at least double that of the latter. Another question, 
whether it is to be carried along an inclined plane, or by a line as- 
cending and descending, must be decided by a comparison of the 
expense and of the utility of each way.' 

"With the exception of the plan of the canal, the report was 
every way worthy of the pen of its author. It established the prac- 
ticability of an inland canal, and illustrated its advantages in a mas- 
terly manner. The cost was estimated at five millions of dollars." 1 

The inclined plane was the earliest method adopted for 
elevating a vessel from a lower to a higher level and was in 

1. "The Canal Policy of the State of New York ... by Tacitus" [Al- 
bany, 1821], 24, 25. 



use in Egypt, Italy and other countries long" before the in- 
vention of locks, the novelty of which is claimed by the 
Dutch of Holland and also by the Italians for Leonardo da 
Vinci and two brothers, who were engineers residing in 

The first canal built in this country, in 1793, around the 
falls of the Connecticut river at South Hadley, Massachu- 
setts, under the supervision of the engineer, Benjamin Pres- 
cott of Northampton, was operated by the use of inclined 
planes by running the boats into a movable caisson filled with 
water, which was "hauled up by cables operated by water- 
power.'' Gouverneur Morris must have known of the ex- 
istence and practical operation of short canals in several 
states provided with locks and that the inclined plane was no 
longer in general use. 

In the Canal Papers of Merwin S. Hawley and George 
Geddes, read before the Buffalo Historical Society many 
years since, 1 may be found a review of the arguments pre- 
sented in behalf of some of the claimants to the originality of 
suggesting a great artificial waterway between Lake Erie and 
the Hudson. Cadwallader Colden, Sir Henry Moore, Chris- 
topher Colles, General Philip Schuyler, George Washington, 
Elkanah Watson, George Clinton, Gouverneur Morris, Jesse 
Hawley, James Geddes, and others, respectively have been 
so credited. It is not my purpose to enter into the discussion 
of the controverted question as to the person or persons en- 
titled to the credit of first suggesting a continuous waterway 
from the Great Lakes on the West to the tidewater on the 
East. It is more in conformity to modern historical research 
to present the undisputed facts so far as they are available in 
relation to this controverted question together with the views 
and suggestions of engineers, military officers, provincial and 
State officials, civilians, travellers and others, who in the 
17th, 1 8th and 19th centuries traversed the fair domain be- 
tween the Hudson on the East and the Great Lakes on the 
West, as I have endeavored to do in this paper with such 
comment thereon, as appears to me warranted after an inves- 
tigation and study of the subject extending over a period of 

1. Both of these are printed in 2 Pubs. Buf. Hist. Soc. 


several years, in order that the reader may draw his own 
conclusions. From all this it will not be an easy matter to 
determine the person or persons entitled to the merit of first 
suggesting artificial water communication between the Hud- 
son river and the Great Lakes. It may have been an evolu- 
tion resulting from many suggestions made for extending 
water communication between the Hudson and the Mohawk, 
the Mohawk and Wood creek, Oneida lake and Lake Ontario 
and Oneida lake and Seneca lake, and Seneca lake and Lake 
Erie, which several bodies of water were to be connected by 
several intervening waterways, the outgrowth of an agitation 
that began as early as the latter part of the 17th century and 
was not consummated until the early part of the 19th cen- 

The argument presented by Colonel Robert Troup in his 
"Vindication of the claim of Elkanah Watson to the Merit 
of projecting the State's Canal Policy" is reviewed in a 
pamphlet published under the title of "The Canal Policy of 
the State of New York," by "Tacitus," presumably De Witt 
Clinton. To this pamphlet Colonel Troup replied, reviewing 
at some length the arguments originally advanced by him and 
answering those contained in the pamphlet by "Tacitus." 

Cadwallader D. Colden in his "Memoir" prepared at the 
request of a committee of the Common Council of New York 
on the occasion of the celebration of the completion of New 
York canal, in speaking of the merits of the various claim- 
ants to the credit of first proposing such a waterway, and 
after reviewing the claims of various persons who were sup- 
posed to have made any such suggestions, says : 

"I have made these few references to show that at a very early 
date, not only the Champlain route to Montreal, but what we now 
call the Ontario route to the Lakes, was perfectly well understood ; 
and that it was well known that the water courses running west- 
wardly and northwardly, and those running southwardly and east- 
wardly, were separated by low lands of very little extent. Any one 
that had traversed those portages, or heard them described, and 
knew that artificial water ways had been constructed in other parts 
of the world, must have thought of completing these water com- 
munications by canals. 


'"'How much in vain, then, must it be to enquire who first thought 
of connecting the western and northern, and southern waters? We 
might as well attempt to ascertain who had the first idea of making 
a highway between New York and Albany, or between any other im- 
portant establishments in our country. Many had opportunities of 
acquiring all the knowledge connected with the subject, and it is 
probable that the thought of water communications, where they are 
now made by the Western Inland Lock Navigation Company, was 
common to hundreds at the same time. 

"Could we pursue this enquiry with any prospect of success, it 
would be a futile labor. The discovery would be of no benefit to 
the community, and but little more credit would be due to one to 
whom the original thought might be traced, if he did nothing towards 
executing the idea he had conceived, than if it had been a dream." 

De Witt Clinton, writing under the nam dc plume of 
"Tacitus," in the pamphlet entitled "Canal Policy of the 
State of New York," says : 

"Several persons may at different times have suggested the utility 
or practicability of connecting the waters of the Hudson and the 
Great Lakes — and the idea would naturally occur to every intelligent 
person who visited our western country, and has probably been enter- 
tained not only in the minds of most of the inhabitants, but has been 
frequently expressed by them at various times, and on different occa- 
sions. Any peculiar merit on this occasion must arise from initiating 
a procedure to obtain a proper plan of connection, from projecting 
this measure, from urging its adoption, or from aiding in its execu- 

"It is well known that a water communication between the Great 
Lakes and the Hudson river may be effected in two ways: I. By 
connecting the Mohawk river and Wood creek at Rome. In this 
route, which is called the Ontario Route, there were originally five 
portages — from Albany to Schenectady — at the Little Falls — at Rome 
— at the Falls of Oswego — and at the cataract of Niagara. This has 
always been, and now is, the course of navigable communication, 
and every traveller pursuing it would naturally remark not only upon 
the convenience, but upon the general facility of accomplishing an 
uninterrupted navigation by the establishment of canals and locks. 
In connection with this route, it was contemplated to facilitate com- 
munication with the Seneca and Cayuga lakes, by the improvement 
of the navigation of the Seneca river. 


"2. The other route is denominated the Erie Route, and it is to 
consist in an artificial navigation, from the tide waters of the 
Hudson to Lake Erie by way of Rome. . . . 

"The utility of canals to supersede the portages on the Mohawk 
and Oswego rivers, and to unite the Mohawk river and Wood creek, 
must have been obvious to every traveller. During what was called 
the French war, this route was of course the thoroughfare to the 
military posts on Lake Ontario — and Oswego and Niagara were the 
great seats of the fur trade, in times of peace as well as of war. 
Carver, who travelled through the western country in the summer of 
1766, says: 'The Oneida Lake, situated near the head of the river 
Oswego, receives the waters of Wood creek, which takes its rise not 
far from the Mohawk river : These two lie so adjacent to each other, 
that a junction is effected by sluices at Fort Stanwix.' Thus we see 
at that early period, that an artificial water communication was made 
between those streams at Rome, and in times of high flood, there is 
no doubt, but that boats frequently passed from the one to the 
other. 1 The junction canal between the Mohawk river and Wood 
creek was laid out by Major Abraham Hardenburgh in June, 1791, 
and designated on a map nearly in the direction of the canal after- 
wards made by the Western Inland Lock Navigation Company." 

Mr. Clinton says further in his pamphlet on '"'The Canal 
Policy of the State of New York," at pages 21-22, that after 
the Report of the Joint Committee of the Senate and Assem- 
bly had been presented through its chairman, Mr. Thomas R. 
Gold of Oneida, on March 21, 1808, that the house unani- 
mously agreed to the following resolution : 

"Resolved, (if the honourable the Senate concur herein), That 
the Surveyor-General of this State be, and he is hereby directed to 
cause an accurate survey to be made of the rivers, streams, and 
waters (not already accurately surveyed) in the usual route of com- 
munication between the Hudson river and Lake Erie, and such other 
contemplated route as he may deem proper; and cause the same to 
be delineated on charts or maps, for that purpose, accompanying the 
same with the elevations of the route, and such explanatory notes as 
may be necessary for all useful information in the premises — of 
which one copy shall be filed in the office of the secretary of this 
state, and another transmitted to the President of the United States, 
which the person administering the government of this State is 
hereby requested to do." 

1. "The Canal Policy of the State of New York ... by Tacitus," io, n. 


"This resolution was concurred in by the Senate." 
"So little was this scheme, which was adopted by the Legislature 
of this State, appreciated or known at that time, that Mr. Gallatin, 
in his luminous and comprehensive report of 180S, to the Senate of 
the United States, on canals, passes it over entirely unnoticed. The 
surveyor-general of this State, however, in pursuance of the resolu- 
tion of the Legislature, endeavored to obtain the required informa- 
tion. For this purpose he employed James Geddes, Esq., of Onon- 
daga county, as an engineer, and corresponded with Joseph Ellicott, 
Esq., of Batavia. These gentlemen were both practical surveyors, of 
experienced skill, of investigating minds, of sagacious observation, 
and perfectly well acquainted with the country. Mr. Geddes, in a 
letter dated Onondaga, ist of July, 1S08, writes: 'Some people 
boldly assert, that a canal can be made from Erie to Rome, with 
less labour, than any one ever was made for the same distance in so 
straight a direction.' Mr. Ellicott, in a letter dated 30th of July, 
1808, in answer to the surveyor-general, opposes the Ontario route, 
and recommends the Erie communication by a canal from Tona- 
wanta to Black creek, a distance of forty-three miles, which, by his 
estimate of 8,160 dollars per mile, would cost $350,SSo; and from 
Genesee river to the navigable waters of Mud creek $350,880, a total 
of $701,760. Mr. Ellicott's communication contained a perspicuous 
description of the country, and was accompanied by an explanatory 
map. Mr. Geddes made a report with a map to the surveyor-general ; 
all of which papers, with the writings of Mr. Hawley, were in the 
possession of the canal commissioners appointed in 1S10 — and un- 
questionably the idea of the Erie canal adopted by that Board or- 
iginated from these investigations, fortified by the observations made 
under their direction." 

"No further view, however, was taken on this subject until the 
session of 1810; when in consequence of representations from the 
Western Inland Lock Navigation Company, and from a great num- 
ber of citizens of Albany, Schenectady, Utica and other places, in- 
terested in the internal trade of this State, commissioners were ap- 
pointed, to explore the country between the great lakes and the 
navigable waters of the Hudson, and to report upon the most eligible 
route for a water communication. It was suggested by these repre- 
sentations as a point deserving of particular attention, that the com- 
merce of the country was directed in a great degree to Canada. The 
report of Mr. Gallatin in favor of canals and roads had awakened 
the public attention to that important object; and the following pro- 
ceedings took place in the legislature, on the motion of the Hon. 
Jonas Piatt, then a senator, afterwards a judge of the Supreme 


Court— a gentleman equally distinguished for strength of under- 
standing and purity of heart: 

State of New York, In Senate, March 13, 1810. 

Whereas, The agricultural and commercial interests of this 
State, require that the inland navigation from Hudson river to Lake 
Ontario and Lake Erie be improved and completed, on a scale com- 
mensurate to the great advantages derived from the accomplishment 
of that important object: and 

Whereas, It is doubtful whether the resources of the Western 
Inland Lock Navigation Company are adequate to such improve- 
ment: Therefore, 

Resolved, (if the honourable the Assembly concur herein), that 
Gouverneur Morris, Stephen Van Rensselaer, De Witt Clinton, 
Simeon De Witt, William North, Thomas Eddy, and Peter B. 
Porter, be, and they are hereby appointed commissioners for ex- 
ploring the whole route, examining the present condition of the said 
navigation, and considering what further improvements ought to be 
made therein ; that they be authorized to direct and procure such 
surveys as to them shall appear necessary and proper in relation to 
the objects; and that they report to the legislature at their next 
session, presenting a full view of the subjects referred to them, with 
their estimates and opinions thereon. And 

Whereas, Numerous inhabitants of the counties of Oneida, 
Madison, and Onondaga, have by their petitions, represented that, by 
reason of the spring freshets, the Oneida lake is usually raised so 
high, as to inundate large tracts of land adjacent thereto, which are 
thereby rendered unfit for cultivation, and highly injurious to the 
health of the neighboring inhabitants ; and that the said evils may be 
easily remedied by removing a bar, and deepening the channel at the 
outlet of the said lake: Therefore, 

Resolved, (if the honourable the Assembly concur herein) that 
the commissioners above named be and they are hereby directed, to 
examine the subjects of the said petitions, and to report to the Legis- 
lature their opinions as to the practicability of the expense and the 
effects of removing the bar and deepening the channel at the outlet 
of said lake. 

p, y order > S. Visscher, Cl'k. 

In Assembly, March 15, 1810. 
Resolved, That this house do concur with the honourable the 
Senate in their preceding resolutions. 

B y order > J. Van Ingen, Cl'k. 


Senator Pope of Kentucky, in 1810, introduced a bill in 
the Senate of the United States, designed to facilitate com- 
munication by canals between different parts of the country. 
He proposed a union of the waters of the Hudson with 
Lakes Erie, Ontario and Champlain. On February 8, 18 10, 
Peter B. Porter of New York presented a resolution in the 
House of Representatives, authorizing the appointment of a 
committee to examine into the expediency of appropriating 
lands for the opening of roads and canals, and supported 
the resolution by a well prepared speech setting forth the 
advantages to accrue to the country from proper internal 
communications. Thereupon a committee of twenty was 
appointed, of which Mr. Porter was chairman, and a bill 
was reported by that committee "for the improvement of 
the United States by roads and canals," among which was a 
provision for '"'opening canals from the Hudson to Lake 
Ontario, and around the Falls of Niagara." 

Both the bill of Senator Pope and that of Congressman 
Porter failed of passage. 

On April 8, 181 1, an Act was passed, empowering the 
above named commissioners together with Robert R. Living- 
ston and Robert Fulton "to make application in behalf of this 
state to the Congress of the United States, or to the Legisla- 
ture of any State or Territory, to cooperate and aid in this 
undertaking, and also the proprietors of the land, through 
which such navigation may be carried, for cessions or grants 
to the people of this State" and for other purposes. That 
commission made its report to the Legislature on March 14, 
1812, in which they say that the states of Tennessee, Massa- 
chusetts and Ohio acted favorably on the project, and the 
Committee of Congress also determined upon a favorable 
report ; but when the report was formulated by a sub-com- 
mittee, it received only four votes out of thirteen and Con- 
gress failed to give the matter its support, notwithstanding 
the fact that President James Madison, on December 23, 
181 1, sent a special message to Congress, transmitting a copy 
of the Acts of the Legislature, and stated in his message that 

"The utility of canal navigation is universally admitted. It is not 
less certain, that scarcely any country offers more extensive oppor- 


tunities, for that branch of improvements, than the United States; 
and none, perhaps, inducements equally persuasive to make the most 
of them. The particular undertaking contemplated by the State of 
New York, which marks an honorable spirit of enterprise and com- 
prises objects of National, as well as more limited importance, will 
recall the attention of Congress to the signal advantages to be de- 
rived to the United States from a general system of internal com- 
munication and conveyance ; and suggest to their consideration what- 
ever steps may be proper on their part, towards its introduction and 
accomplishment. As some of those advantages have an intimate con- 
nection with arrangements and exertions for the general security, it 
is a perod calling for these that the merits of such a system will be 
seen in the strongest lights." 

VIII. Legislative Progress — The Decisive Vote. 

On June 19, 18 12, an Act was passed by the Legislature 
authorizing and empowering the commissioners mentioned 
in the Act entitled, "An Act to Provide for the Improve- 
ment of the Internal Navigation of the State, 7 ' passed on 
the 8th day of April, 181 1, who were Gouverneur Morris, 
Stephen Van Rensselaer, De Witt Clinton, Simeon De Witt, 
William North, Thomas Eddy, Peter B. Porter, Robert R. 
Livingston and Robert Fulton, "to purchase all the rights, 
interest and estate of the President, Directors and Stock- 
holders of the Western Inland Lock Navigation Company in 
the State of New York, of, in and to the inland waters of 
the State, together with the locks, canals, lands and other 
property" held by the president and directors of said com- 
pany, upon such terms and conditions as they, the commis- 
sioners, should deem reasonable, and in case of such pur- 
chase they were required to take the charge and management 
of said locks, canals, lands, and all other property and to 
exact the same tolls to the use of the people of this State as 
were received by the former owners of such canals and to 
make all rules and regulations as they might deem proper. 
This authority, however, was to be exercised conditionally 
only upon their obtaining satisfactory information from 
some experienced engineer that the accomplishment of the 
contemplated canal was practicable and when the comrnis- 



sioners shall be authorized by the act of the Legislature to 
commence operations for opening said canal. 

By the second section of said Act of June 19, 1812, the 
commissioners were authorized to procure voluntary ces- 
sions or grants of any lands for the proposed inland naviga- 
tion from Lake Erie to the Hudson river. 

By the third section of said act, they were authorized and 
empowered to borrow a sum of money not exceeding five 
millions of dollars, at six per cent., upon a loan for not less 
than fifteen years. And they were authorized to pledge the 
faith of the State for the payment of principal and interest. 

A proposed bill was formulated to be presented to Con- 
gress but never passed. 

The Seneca Lock Navigation Company was incorporated 
under chapter 144 of the Laws of 181 3 for the purpose of 
improving the navigation between Seneca and Cayuga lakes. 
The company went on and built its locks and constructed its 
works, but subsequently under chapter 271 of the Laws of 
1825 the construction of the Cayuga and Seneca canal was 
authorized and the State acquired all the stock, property and 
privileges of the Seneca Lock Navigation Company. The 
State has ever since continued to operate that canal and a 
detour has been made in the original route of the new barge 
canal up the Seneca river within a few miles of the Cayuga 
and Seneca lakes for the purpose of bringing them ulti- 
mately into communication with it. 

Again on March 8, 18 14, the commissioners made another 
report to the Legislature, in which they set forth the results 
of further investigations and their belief "that communica- 
tion between Lake Champlain and Hudson river may easily 
be effected," and concluded the report with an extract from 
a letter of the eminent English engineer, William Weston of 
the Inland Lock Navigation Company, in which he says : 

"Should your noble but stupendous plan of uniting Lake Erie 
with the Hudson, be carried into effect, you have to fear no rivalry. 
The commerce of the immense extent of country, bordering on the 
upper lakes, is yours forever, and to such an incalculable amount as 
would baffle all conjecture to conceive. Its execution would confer 
honor on the projectors and supporters, and would in its eventual 


consequences, render New York the greatest commercial emporium 
in the world, with perhaps the exception, at some distant day, of 
New Orleans, or some other depot at the mouth of the majestic 
Mississippi. From your perspicuous topographical description, and 
neat plan and profile of the route of the contemplated canal, I enter- 
tain little doubt of the practicability of the measure. Perhaps this is 
the only question which the Legislature should be particularly 
anxious to have resolved. The expense, be it what it may, is no 
object when compared with the incalculable benefits arising there- 
from, though doubtless, it will deserve attention, that the money 
granted liberally be wisely and economically expended." 

To the report is annexed a schedule of cessions of land 
agreed, to be made to the People of the State by the Holland 
Land Company and others. During the War of 1812-1814, 
several attempts were made to repeal several sections of the 
Act of June 19, 1812, which was not accomplished until the 
session of 1814. 

Robert Fulton, writing under date of February 22, 18 14, 
to Gouverneur Morris, on the advantages of the proposed 
canal from Lake Erie to the Hudson river, says: 

"As I passed three years at various canals in England, to obtain 
practical knowledge on the manner of constructing them, and to 
make myself familiar with their advantages, and was well acquainted 
with some of the best engineers, I know this calculation to be cor- 
rect. Hence one cent per ton per mile, is one dollar a ton for 100 
miles, while the usual cost of wagoning is one dollar and sixty cents 
per hundredweight for 100 miles, or thirty-two dollars a ton. It 
consequently follows, that on a canal, a ton weight could be boated 
3200 miles for the sum now paid to wagon it 100 miles ; and the per- 
sons at 3200 miles from a good seaport, would have all the advant- 
ages of trade, or of bringing their product to market, which those 
who reside only 100 miles from market now enjoy, provided the 
canal were toll free. . . . From this one cent per ton per mile I 
will draw some interesting calculations on the present price of 
freight in sloops on Hudson's river, between New York and Albany, 
and show that it could be done much cheaper by a canal ; the proof 
of them will be conclusive, that if a canal can give advantages su- 
perior to sloop navigation on Hudson's river, which is one of the 
most rectilinear and best in the world, the benefits to be derived 
from the one contemplated must be vastly superior to every kind of 
road, river or lake communication from Lake Erie to Hudson's 


Mr. Fulton says that from custom-house returns he found 
that there were 400 sloops or vessels of every description 
employed with an average capacity of sixty tons each, mak- 
ing eleven trips up and down the Hudson river in one 
season, and he estimates the tonnage, of the Hudson river 
at 504,000 tons, upon which he computes the saving in 
freights, in the aggregate, at $550,200. His letter has many 
pertinent suggestions with reference to the advantages to 
accrue from such a canal and his opinion had much weight. 
Gouvernenr Morris, w T ho replied to this letter from Mor- 
risania, on March 3, 1814, said that he considered it of so 
much value that he should transmit a copy to Albany "that 
it may be communicated to members of the Legislature/' 

Governor Tompkins in his speech at the opening of the 
Legislature of 1816, said: 

"It will rest with the Legislature, whether the prospect of con- 
necting the waters of the Hudson with those of the Western Lakes 
and of Champlain, is not sufficiently important to demand the appro- 
priation of some part of the revenues of the State to its accomplish- 
ment, without imposing too great a burden upon our constituents. 
The first route being an object common with the States of the West, 
we may rely on their zealous cooperation in any judicious plan that 
can perfect the water communication in that direction. As it relates 
to the connecting the waters of the Hudson with those of Lake 
Champlain, we may with equal confidence count on the spirited exer- 
tions of the patriotic and enterprisng State of Vermont." 

There followed on March 8, 1816, a further report from 
the commissioners to the Legislature, in which they say : 

"During the late War it was impracticable to carry on any further 
operations to forward the objects of their appointments, by pursuing 
the surveys and levels heretofore commenced with a view to ascer- 
tain the most desirable route for the proposed canal from Lake Erie 
to the tidewaters of the Hudson river. ... It now remains for 
the Legislature to provide means to enable the commissioners to 
engage a competent professional engineer to examine minutely the 
whole of the ground and decide on the most expedient route. . . . 
From the number and respectability of the applications now before 
the Legislature in favor of an immediate commencement and vig- 
orous prosecution of this great National work, it is evident that the 


immense advantages which would result from its completion are duly 
appreciated by our fellow-citizens; and it only remains for the Legis- 
lature to sanction by their approval an undertaking which combines 
in one object, the honor, interest and political eminence of the State. 
"While the commissioners cannot express, in terms sufficiently 
emphatic, their ideas of the incalculable benefits which will arise from 
a canal navigation between the great western lakes and the tidewaters 
of the Hudson, they fully appreciate the advantages of connecting 
the waters of Champlain with the Hudson, and they most respect- 
fully represent to the Legislature, the expedience of adopting such 
preliminary measures as may be necessary for the accomplishment of 
this important object." 

Memorials from Cadwallacier D. Colden and others of 
New York and from the citizens of the village of Troy and 
petitions of the inhabitants of the towns of Buffalo, Seneca, 
Geneva, Reading, Junius, Lyons, Caledonia, Genoa, Lenox, 
Ulysees, Avon, Paris, Bloomfield, Hartland, Ridgeway, 
Russia, German Flats, Newport and Schuyler and of the 
inhabitants of the City of Albany and of the Mayor, Alder- 
men and Commonality of the City of New York and of the 
inhabitants of the counties of Oneida, Genesee and Chau- 
tauqua, were presented to the Legislature in 1816, favoring 
the construction of a canal from Lake Erie to the Hudson 

The memorial of the citizens of New York in favor of 
canal navigation between the great western lakes and the 
tidewaters of the Hudson was presented to the Assembly on 
February 21, 181 6, and ordered printed. 

De Witt Clinton, Thomas Eddy, Cadwallader D. Colden, 
and John Swartwont were the Committee appointed to draft 
and circulate it, but it was largely, if not entirely, the work 
of De Witt Clinton. This memorial was the most compre- 
hensive statement ever made to a legislative body in .Amer- 
ica, setting forth the advantages to accrue from inland water 
navigation. It is an exhaustive review of the advantages of 
water transportation in other countries ; and its clear presen- 
tation of the advantages to the State of New York that 
would accrue from the construction of a system of water- 
ways from the Fludson to Lake Erie, Lake Ontario and Lake 


Champlain, made a deep impression on the legislators of that 
day and is worthy of perusal by this and subsequent genera- 
tions. 1 

Mr. Van Rensselaer, from the joint committee of the 
Senate and Assembly, on March 21, 1816, reported "that the 
committee had taken into consideration the numerous peti- 
tions and memorials from the cities, counties, villages and 
towns in this State, which evinced on the part of the peti- 
tioners and memorialists (amounting to several thousands in 
number) great anxiety that the improvement of the inland 
navigation of the State should engage the early attention of 
the Legislature and that vigorous measures should be 
adopted for its early completion. " That committee further 
reported that the "sources of revenue as the beneiits to result 
from the canal navigation gradually unfold themselves will 
be found, in the opinion of the Committee, in the increased 
value of real estate in the great commercial cities, the towns 
and villages and generally that part of the country in the 
vicinity of which the said canals shall pass." 

Various sources of revenue are enumerated in the report 
whence funds were to be realized for the construction of this 
work, the expense of which was estimated to be six millions 
of dollars. The estimate was not far out of the way, for the 
original cost of the Erie Canal was $7,143,789. 

Statements of the feasibility of the route and the engineer- 
ing problems involved and the cost of different sections were 
furnished by James Geddes and Benjamin Wright. The 
Assembly entered upon the consideration of the proposed act 
for improving the internal navigation of this State on April 
3, 1816, and continued the discussion thereon on April 10th, 
nth, 13th, and 15th, when the bill received 83 affirmative 
votes and 16 negative votes on a report of the Committee of 
the Whole. The bill had its third reading in the Assembly 
on April 15, 1816, and received 91 affirmative votes and was 
passed, there being only 18 negative votes. 

In the Senate the bill was taken into consideration on 
April 16, 1816, and was considered on April 17th, at which 
time certain amendments were proposed to the original bill. 

1. It will be found in subsequent pages cf this collection. 


On the latter elate the bill passed the Senate with some 
amendments and was returned to the Assembly and the 
amendments concurred in by the Assembly on the same day. 
The bill was approved by the Governor, and became chapter 
22,7 °f tne Laws of 1816. 

Under that act the canal commissioners were "to cause 
those parts of the territory of this State to be explored and 
examined for the purpose of fixing and determining the 
most eligible route, and cause necessary surveys and levels 
to be taken and accurate maps, field books and drafts thereof 
to be made, and further to adopt and recommend proper 
places for the construction and foundation of the. said 
canals, and of the locks, dams, embankments, tunnels, and 
aqueducts, which might be necessary for the completion of 
the same and cause all necessary plans, drafts and models 
thereof to be executed under their directions." 

The commissioners met in the city of New York May 17, 
1816, and organized by electing De Witt Clinton president, 
Samuel Young secretary, Myron Holley treasurer. Charles 
C. Brodhead was designated as engineer for the eastern 
division from Rome to the Hudson river; Benjamin Wright 
was designated as engineer of the middle section, extending 
from the Seneca river to Rome, and James Geddes was des- 
ignated as engineer for the western section, extending from 
Lake Erie to Seneca river. William Peacock was desig- 
nated as engineer to explore and survey the country from 
the east line of the Holland Purchase to Buffalo south of the 
ridge under the supervision of Joseph Ellicott, Esquire, to 
determine as to whether or not the canal might not be con- 
structed more economically along that route. The Cham- 
plain canal was in charge of an engineer of the name of Col. 
G. Lewis Garin. 

At the extra session of the Legislature, convening on 
November 5. 1816, Governor Tompkins said: "It is re- 
spectfully submitted to your wisdom to make provision at 
the present session, for employing a part at least of the state 
prisoners, either in building the new prison at Auburn, 
erecting fortifications, opening and repairing great roads, 
constructing canals, or in making other improvements." 


The suggestion of the employment of convicts on State 
works has been repeated on several other occasions since 
Governor Tompkins first proposed it, and it is possible that 
the State may find it advantageous so to do in the building 
of its system of highways now under process of construction. 

Two of the commissioners appointed under chapter 237, 
Laws of 1816, after visiting the Middlesex canal in Massa- 
chusetts, recommended that the Erie canal should have a 
width of 40 feet at the water surface and 28 feet at the bot- 
tom, and a depth of 4 feet and that the locks should be 90 
feet in length and 12 feet in width, to admit of vessels car- 
rying 100 tons. In their official report of February 17, 1817, 
these suggestions were adopted, and the proposed Erie canal 
was divided into the three sections as hereinbefore defined. 

The report is lengthy and contains many details as to the 
route, engineering problems, estimates of probable cost of 
construction, bridges and other matters. 

One of the interesting conclusions reached by the com- 
missioners in relation to the use of the Tonawanda creek is 
that such creek might be used for 17 miles by using the bed 
of the creek, at an expense of $18,700. Although the com- 
missioners say that "in most cases, experience is decidedly 
against making use of the channels of natural streams on 
any part of the route of a canal navigation. These streams 
are so apt to produce injury to the artificial works with 
which they are connected, by freshets in the spring with a 
stiong and muddy current, by want of water in the fall, and 
the sudden changes to which they are liable at all seasons, 
that they should be avoided, except as feeders, almost al- 
ways when it is practicable. But to these remarks the Ton- 
newanta affords an exception." 

This aversion to the use of the beds of natural streams 
of water on the part of the commissioners undoubtedly had 
much to do in determining the route of the original Erie 
canal through the State to avoid them ; whereas the engi- 
neers of today prefer the beds of natural streams of water 
for canal construction wherever it be possible to utilize the 
same, and accordingly the new barge canal for two-thirds 
of its length is to be constructed through the beds of natural 


streams of water. A similar policy has dominated canal 
construction in Europe. All the principal rivers of that con- 
tinent, where not navigable, have been canalized so that the 
beds of natural streams of water constitute a large part of 
the navigable waterways, which, in France, are divided into 
two categories : the first comprises all waterways having a 
depth of not less than two meters, with locks not less than 
38—50/100 meters in length and 5 — 20/100 meters in width, 
substantially as provided by the Law of 1879, and the second 
class comprises all other navigable waterways. 

This report on being presented to the Legislature was re- 
ferred to a joint committee of the Senate and Assembly, and 
acted upon by that committee in its report made on March 
18, 1817, through its chairman, Mr. Ford, in which they 
conclude that "your committee are of opinion, that these 
canals would be beneficial to every section of the state. 
They would eventually make New York the greatest com- 
mercial emporium in the world; and the greatness; of the 
commerce of that city, would, in a variety of ways, promote 
the interests of the southern district. . . . Experience 
shows, in all the rich cities of Europe, that as the means of 
communication with the interior are rendered easier, better 
and more extensive from those cities, the value of property 
has uniformly increased in their vicinity. . . . These 
canals would promote the interests of the middle district, by 
furnishing it with gypsum, salt, iron, lumber and fuel, in 
many places cheaper than they can otherwise be obtained, 
and by increasing the markets for all its surplus produc- 
tions. . . . To the western district, the importance of these 
canals is too well known, and too generally admitted to need 
elucidation here." 

In this report they recommended the purchase of the "in- 
terest of the Western Inland Lock Navigation Company, 
and for commencing and completing a canal navigation, be- 
tween Rome and the Seneca river, and between Lake Cham- 
plain and the Hudson river. ,"'.'•" 

On March 18, 1817, the commissioners appointed under 
chapter 237, Laws of 1816, made their report to the Legis- 
lature on the Northern or Champlain canal, in which they 



set forth the changes to occur to the northeastern counties 
of the State, rich in timber, ores and other products and the 
benefits that would accrue thereto by the construction of a 
canal between Lake Champlain and the Hudson river, the 
expense of which is estimated at $871,000. In concluding 
which they say : "Before the lapse of half a century, those 
who succeed us, will witness, in the consolidation of those 
cities and villages into one great city, a union of interests 
and sympathies which will totally dissipate the apprehen- 
sions and jealousies that may now exist." 

The commission of which De Witt Clinton was presi- 
dent made application to Congress under date of November 
10, 1816, "for cessions, grants or donations of land or 
money, for the purpose of aiding in opening a communica- 
tion by means of canals, between. the navigable waters of 
Hudson's river and Lake Erie and the said navigable waters 
and Lake Champlain," in which were set forth, among other 
things, the benefits to the United States, including the 
benefits of the increased facility of transportation to the 
whole country between the Great Lakes, the Mississippi 
and the Ohio, and the impetus to trade, both foreign and 
domestic, between the seaboard and the interior of this 
country. This was supplemented by an address to the 
Members of Congress from this State. Letters passed be- 
tween the New York Canal Commissioners and Thomas 
Kirker, Speaker of the House of Representatives of Ohio 
and Abraham Shepherd, president of the Senate of that 
State and Paul Bustl, agent of the Holland Land Company, 
Augustus Porter of Niagara Falls, Col. W. Mynderse and 
others, in relation to various phases of the questions con- 
fronting the New York Commissioners. 

Congress did not act on the matter, however, and the 
State assumed the responsibility of the inception of the vast 
undertaking. On March 19, 1817, Assemblyman William 
D. Ford of Herkimer County, from the Joint Committee 
on Canals, brought in a bill entitled "An Act concerning 
navigable communications between the Great Western 
Lakes and the Northern Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean," 
to which various amendments were offered, while it was 


under consideration in the Assembly on April 8th, Qth 
and ioth. 

Among other things the Act provided for a canal fund 
to consist of appropriations, grants and donations as might 
be made by the Legislature, the Congress of the United 
States and by corporations, companies and individuals to 
be managed by "the Commissioners of the Canal Fund," 
consisting of the Lieutenant Governor, the Comptroller, th> 
Attorney-General, the Surveyor-General, the Secretary and 
Treasurer." It continued the former commissioners and 
authorized them "to commence making the said canals." It 
authorized the commissioners "to enter upon, take posses- 
sion of and use any lands, waters and streams necessary for 
the prosecution of the improvements," intended by said act; 
and provided for the appointment of appraisers, by the Jus- 
tices of the Supreme Court "to make a just and equitable 
estimate and appraisal of the loss and damage, if any, over 
and above the benefit and advantage to the respective own- 
ers and proprietors or parties interested in the premises so 
requested for the purposes" of said act. It authorized the 
commissioners to acquire, by a prescribed procedure analo- 
gous to condemnation proceedings, "all the interest and title 
of all the lands, waters, canals, locks, feeders, and appur- 
tenances" of the Western Inland Lock Navigation Com- 
pany, and vest the same in the People of the State. 

Several amendments involving various questions were 
proposed, but that which gave rise to the most debate related 
to the fiscal features of the bill. 

In the Assembly Judge Nathaniel Pendleton of Dutchess, 
Wheeler Barnes of Oneida, William B. Rochester of Al- 
legany and Steuben, William A. Duer of Dutchess, and 
Elisha Williams of Columbia, supported the measure. In 
its advocacy Judge Pendleton said: 

"The committee reported that the counties west of the Oneida, 
inclusive, had paid annually one million of dollars for the transpor- 
tation of merchandise and supplies of all kinds from Albany for 
their clothes, farms, manufactures, etc., and that the average freight 
to Buffalo, the most distant point, was one hundred dollars per ton — 
that the price of freight from Montreal to the same point, was about 


sixty dollars. Suppose sixty dollars to be the average price, it fol- 
lowed that they required upwards of 66,000 tons to supply their 
wants. If a safe and easy navigation can be effected by means of 
canals and locks, which he believed to be practicable, at a compara- 
tively small expense, the price of freights at three cents per ton per 
mile, which was the lowest sum spoken of, would, on an average, 
enable them to obtain those supplies at ten dollars and a half per 
ton on the whole route, making a gain of forty-nine dollars and a 
half, a saving of more than $700,000 per annum on this single charge 
upon their industry. In relation to the transportation of their 
produce to market, it was stated that it might be carried to Montreal 
at thirty dollars. The quantity of tonnage, however, was much 
greater, as the articles were more bulky, and this item would make 
the saving in transportation alone one million dollars per annum in 
those counties." 1 

He proceeded to show that all the counties in the State 
would be benefited by the proposed waterway ; farms 
would appreciate in value, villages and cities spring up along 
the route of the canal, and Albany would be in a better 
position to compete for the trade of the Western country 
with Montreal than it had been theretofore. He expressed 
the belief that the work could be accomplished for seven 
or eight millions of dollars. 

It was during this debate that Elisha Williams of Colum- 
bia, addressing himself to a leading member of the New 
York delegation, made use of an expression which has 
been oft repeated since : 

'If the canal is to be a shower of gold, it will fall upon 
New York; if a river of gold, it will flow into her lap." 

There were in the Assembly that passed the decisive bill 
122 members, of whom 64 voted in the affirmative on the 
whole bill, 36 in the negative and 22 were not recorded. By 
counties this vote ran as follows: Albany, 4 for; Allegany 
and Steuben, 2 for ; Broome, 1 not recorded ; Cattaraugus, 
Chautauqua and Niagara, represented by the same mem- 
bers, 2 for; Cayuga, 3 for, 1 against; Chenango, 2 for 1 
against; Clinton and Franklin, 1 for. The 4 Columbia 
members, under the strong leadership of Elisha Williams, 
who made one of the most effective speeches in favor of 

1. Hosack's "Memoir of DeWitt Clinton," 445, 446. 


the bill, all voted for it. Cortland, I for it; Delaware, I 
against, I not recorded. Of the 5 assemblymen from 
Dutchess County, two, Duer and Pendleton, voted for the 
bill. Emott and Sherman opposed it, and the 5th member, 
Joel Benton, was not recorded. The member for Essex 
County voted against it. Of the 3 members from Genesee, 
two were for it, 1 against it. Clinton County's two members 
were against it. Herkimer County's 3 members were for 
it. Jefferson County gave 1 vote against, 1 not recorded: 
Kings County was unrepresented ; Lewis County gave 1 
vote against the bill ; Madison 3 for it. Of the 5 members 
from Montgomery County 4 were for it, the 5th, Benedict 
Arnold, not being recorded. 

Of the 11 members from New York County 7 voted 
against the bill and 4 are not recorded. The vote of Oneida 
stood 4 for, 2 unrecorded. Onondaga, 3 for, 1 against; 
Ontario, 3 for, 4 unrecorded. The entire Otsego County 
delegation of 5 voted for it. Putnam County gave I against ; 
Queens 3 against; Rensselaer 5 for; Richmond 1 against; 
Rockland 1 against; St. Lawrence 1 not recorded; Sara- 
toga 1 for, 1 against, 2 not recorded ; Schenectady 1 for, 1 
not recorded ; Schoharie 2 for, 1 not recorded ; Seneca 2 
for, 1 not recorded; Suffolk 1 against, 2 not recorded; Sul- 
livan and Ulster 1 for, 1 against, 2 not recorded; Tioga 1 
not recorded; Washington and Warren, 1 for, 4 against; 
and Westchester's delegation of 3 members were all against 
the bill. 

It must be remembered that some of these counties were 
much larger geographically than they are at present and 
included territory since erected into other counties. 

In 1817 the State was divided into four senatorial dis- 
tricts, known as the Southern, Middle, Eastern and West- 
ern. The Southern district included at that time Dutchess, 
Kings, New York, Putnam, Queens, Richmond, Rockland, 
Suffolk and Westchester counties and was entitled to six 
senators. The bill was taken up in the senate on April nth, 
12th and 14th, and further amended. 

Mr. Lucas Elmendorf of Ulster, and Peter R. Livingston 
of Dutchess, spoke in opposition to the bill, and Mr. George 


Tibbits of Rensselaer, and ex-Governor Martin Van Buren, 
made strong speeches in favor of it. Mr. Van Buren on 
that occasion discussed the various provisions of the bill 
and among other things said : 

''Lay out of view all the accidental resources, and the revenue 
from the canal, and in completing the work you will only entail upon 
the State a debt, the interest of which will amount to but about 
$300,000. . . . The tax would not amount to more than one mill 
on the dollar, unless the report of commissioners is a tissue of fraud 
or misrepresentation, this tax will be sufficient, and more than suf- 
ficient, to complete the canal." 

Mr. Van Buren contended that the duties upon salt, and 
the auction duties, were a certain source of revenue, and 
that these two sources of revenue would be abundant, and 
more than abundant, forever to discharge the interest of 
the debt to be created. "Ought we," he asked, "under such 
circumstances, to reject this bill? No, sir; for one I am 
willing to go to the length contemplated by the bill. The 
canal is to promote the interest and character of the State 
in a thousand ways." He considered it "the most important 
vote" he ever gave in his life — ''but the project, if executed, 
would raise the State to the highest possible pitch of fame 
and grandeur." When he took his seat he was warmly con- 
gratulated by Mr. Clinton upon his exertions "in the most 
flattering terms." 

On the final passage of the bill and amendments in the 
Senate, on April 15, 1S17, five or six senators from the 
Southern district voted against its final passage, and one 
senator from that district is not recorded. 

After the passage of the bill in the Senate, it was re- 
turned to the Assembly, where some of the Senate amend- 
ments were concurred in and others rejected; and on April 
15, 1817, it was sent to the Council of Revision and became 
on that day chapter 262 of the Laws of 181 7. 

The solid opposition of the Southern district in the Sen- 
ate, including the counties now comprising greater New 
York, as well as the opposition from the same counties in 
the Assembly, was annoying to Mr. Clinton who frequently 
commented upon that opposition from a territory to be most 


largely benefited, and may perhaps be a surprise to New 
Yorkers of to-day who are now among the strongest and 
most potential advocates of canal construction. 

IX. The Construction Period. 

By an act passed on April 12, 1820, entitled "An act con- 
cerning the Erie and Champlain Canals," the commissioners 
of the canal fund were authorized to borrow on the credit 
of the State, money sufficient to pay the damages sustained 
by the Western Inland Lock Navigation Company. 

On June 24, 1820, the Commissioners to estimate the 
damage sustained by the Western Inland Lock Navigation 
Company made their report to the Supreme Court awarding 
damages to the stockholders of that Company, whose hold- 
ings of stock aggregated $140,000, in the sum of $91,616, 
and for the use of the People of the State, proprietors of 
stock amounting to $92,000, the sum of $60,204.80. These 
awards were approved by the Justices of the Supreme 
Court on August II, 1820, and the amount going to indi- 
vidual stockholders paid on October 2, 1820. 1 

Still on January 12, 1821, the Comptroller reported to 
the Legislature that the amount paid to extinguish the 
rights of the Western Inland Lock Navigation Company 
was $i$2,7i8.52. 2 This latter sum may have included in- 
terest on shares owned by the People of the State. 

For the purpose of raising revenue to pay the cost of 
such works the act further provided for the imposition of a 
duty or tax of twelve and a half cents per bushel upon salt 
manufactured in the county of Onondaga and the Western 
District of the State, a tax of one dollar upon each steam- 
boat passenger for each and every trip or voyage such pas- 
senger might be conveyed upon the Hudson river on board 
of any steamboat over one hundred miles ; and half that sum 
for any distance less than one hundred miles and over 
thirty miles ; that the proceeds of all lotteries, which should 

1. 1 "Laws of the State of New York in relation to the Erie and Cham- 
plain canals ..." [Albany, 1825], 502-506. 

2. 2 Canal Laws, 49. 


be drawn in this State, after the sums theretofore granted 
upon them, should be paid ; all the net proceeds from the 
Western Inland Lock Navigation Company and of said 
canals, including all grants and donations made for the pur- 
pose of making such canals ; and all the duties upon sales 
at auction, after deducting certain appropriations therefrom 
made annually for certain enumerated, charitable purposes, 
should be applied to the canal fund. It also provided that 
the commissioners should raise the sum of $250,000 by caus- 
ing to be assessed and levied in such manner as the com- 
missioners might determine and direct said sum, upon the 
lands and real estate lying along the route of said canals 
and within twenty- five miles of them, apportioning such 
tax on the land adjacent to the canals in such proportion for 
each as the commissioners should determine, with power to 
enforce the collection thereof; the assessment to be made 
on such lands according to the benefit conferred, subject, 
however, to rules and regulations to be approved by the 
Chancellor and judges of the Supreme Court. This provi- 
sion, however, was suspended by the terms of section 5 of 
an act entitled "An Act concerning the Great Western and 
Northern canals" passed on April 7, 1819, until the further 
order of the Legislature. 

A somewhat similar assessment on lands assumed to be 
benefited was recommended in the report of the Committee 
on Canals, appointed by Governor Theodore Roosevelt in 
1899, in which they say: 

"... while the canals have benefited the entire State, and every 
part of it, yet in those counties lying remote from the water routes 
the benefit has been less evident than in those adjacent to these 
routes. It has, therefore, seemed to us that it would be equitable 
that the expenses of completing the enlargement of the water routes 
should be borne by those counties through which these waters pass, 
instead of being paid by the entire State, as has been usually the 
custom hitherto." 1 

At that time I was chairman of the Canal Committee of 
the Assembly, and considered such proposed assessment to 
defray the cost of canal enlargement to be in violation of 

I. See Report of Committee on Canals of New York, 1900, pp. 32, 33. 


the provisions of Section 4 of Article VII. of the Constitu- 
tion. Accordingly I submitted the matter to the Attorney- 
General for his opinion and he so decided. 1 No such consti- 
tutional provision, however, limited the powers of the Legis- 
lature in 1817 and it proceeded to make such provision for 
raising revenues as appeared expedient to the Legislature 
and people of that day. The fiscal problems involved were 
quite as serious as the engineering problems. It required 
more foresight at that time, when the State, for the most 
part, was unsettled, its revenues uncertain and its resources 
unknown, to finance such a vast undertaking and more 
courage to carry it to execution than are now required to 
finance and build new barge canals. The framers of the 
Canal Law of 18 17, however, 

"Builded better than they knew" 

as may be seen from the results of the operation of the 
fiscal provisions of that statute. 

On March 30, 1820, the steamboat tax imposed by the 
act of April 15, 1817, was suspended, and in lieu thereof a 
tax of $5,000 was imposed upon the North River Steam- 
boat Company. By the latter act the sum of $25,000 was 
appropriated for the improvement of the Oswego river, 
under the direction of the Canal Commissioners. 2 

There was derived from the steamboat passenger tax 
to the time of its abolition in 1823 the aggregate sum 
°f $73>5°9-99; from the auction tax or vendue duty to 
1836, when it was discontinued, the aggregate sum of 
$3o9 2 >°39 °5 J an< 3 from the duty or tax on salt to 1836, 
when it ceased to be so applied, the aggregate sum of 
$2,055,458.06. From these three sources were realized 
$5,721,007.88, whereas the aggregate cost of the original 
Erie, Champlain and Oswego canals was only $8,630,237. 
The proceeds of lotteries were absorbed in appropria- 
tions amounting to $715,543. theretofore made to acade- 
mies, colleges and other institutions, or for other pur- 
poses, so that nothing was realized from that source before 

1. See Report of the Attorney General for 1900, pp. 145-172. 

2. 1 Canal Laws, 514. 


lotteries were prohibited by Sec. n of Article 7 of the 
Constitution of 1821. 

In a report presented to the Legislature under date of 
January 31, 181 8, the Canal Commissioners gave an account 
of their transactions after the enactment of the canal law 
of 1817. 

The first work decided upon was the construction of that 
portion of the canal from Rome to Utica, as that summit 
"would command, at all times, an inexhaustible supply of 
water, embracing the Oriskany creek, the Mohawk river, 
Wood creek, and the more numerous and copious streams 
west of Wood creek, which cross the line of the canal, and 
discharge themselves into Oneida lake. . . ,' n 

The first contract was dated June 27, 181 7, and the work 
was commenced at Rome, the site of Ft. Stanwix, which had 
played an important part m the commercial history of the 
territory, on the 4th day of July, 1817. The people of the 
village arranged to celebrate Independence Day and the 
commencement of the excavation for the Erie Canal with 
proper ceremonies. They assembled at sunrise and were 
addressed by Judge Joshua Plathaway, president of the 
village, who introduced Col. Samuel Young, one of the 
canal commissioners, who spoke as follows : 

"Felloii'-citiccns: We have assembled to commence the excava- 
tion of the Erie canal. The work when accomplished will connect 
our western inland seas with the Atlantic ocean. It will diffuse the 
benefits of internal navigation over a surface of vast extent, blessed 
with a salubrious climate and luxuriant soil, embracing a tract of 
country capable of sustaining more human beings than were ever 
accommodated by any work of the kind. 

"By this great highway, unborn millions will easily transport 
their surplus productions to the shores of the Atlantic, procure their 
supplies, and hold a useful and profitable intercourse with all the 
maritime nations of the earth. 

4 The expense and labor of this great undertaking, bear no pro- 
portion to its utility. Nature has kindly afforded every facility; we 
have all the moral and physical means within our reach and control. 
Let us then proceed to the work, animated by the prospect of its 
speedy accomplishment, and cheered with the anticipated benedic- 
tions of a grateful posterity." 

1. lb. 367. 


At tHe conclusion of the speech Judge John Richardson 
removed the first spadeful of earth and was followed by the 
assembled citizens who were zealous to participate in the 
: -'t ■■ -rs and ceremonies of this eventful occasion. One writer 
s$ys . 

"Thus accompanied by the acclamations of the citizens, and the 
discharge of a cannon, was struck the first stroke towards the con- 
struction of a work, which in its completion has united Erie with 
the Hudson; the West with the Atlantic; which has scattered plenty 
afong its borders ; carried refinement and civilization to the regions 
of the wilderness; and which will ever remain a proud and useful 
monument of the enlightened views of its projectors, and of the 
wisdom and magnanimity of the State of New York." 1 

The Commissioners considered it "more just and equit- 
able" to let small contracts, "in order that men in moderate 
pecuniary circumstances might be enabled to engage in the 
work" than by a diminution of the number of the contracts 
to put "it in the power of a few wealthy individuals to 
monopolize the whole." Accordingly there were approxi- 
mately 50 separate contracts let for 58 miles of work on 
the summit level within the first year. Money was ad- 
vanced on security to contractors before any work was done 
to enable them to purchase provisions and supplies for their 
men. Surveys of the entire route were made during the 
dry season of 18 16 and the work commenced in the wet 
season of 181 7, which made the work more expensive to 
the contractors, but for the first year it was done within 
the estimates, notwithstanding "the surface of the earth 
was beaten and drenched by heavy and frequent rains and 
from the melting of snow till nearly the first of June."- 

Un foreseen difficulties were encountered in constructing 
the prism and maintaining the embankments in some parts 
of the route, which ran through swamps and marshy dis- 
tricts lower than the established level of sections of the 
canal, such as those through the Cayuga marshes be- 
tween the Mohawk and Seneca rivers, frequently flooded 
by intercepting water courses, rendering such sections at 

1. Hosack's Clinton, 455, 456. 

2. 1 Canal Laws, 399. 


times impassible. In other places hardpan, breccia, in- 
durated clay, and stone or quicksand were encountered. 
In still other places rank marsh grasses, shrubbery, roots 
and stuiru^ of trees obstructed the progress of work, and 
the contractors devised and constructed some of the appara- 
tus and machinery which they used in grubbing, cleaning 
and excavating; for steam drills and shovels, steam and 
hydraulic dredges, steam and electric derricks, excavators, 
travelling derricks, cableways, transporting scows, belt- 
conveyor plants and construction trains now in use in barge 
canal construction were then unknown. The axe, spade, 
wheel-barrow, road-scraper, a heavy coulter-pointed plough, 
devised for the occasion and drawn by two yoke of oxen, 
which would cut roots two inches in diameter, were among 
the common implements in general use in the building of the 
original Erie, Champlain and Oswego canals. 

To prevent deception and fraud in the performance of 
the work of excavation and construction of the embank- 
ments, the engineers were instructed to employ vigilant as- 
sistants to travel frequently over the line of the canal, in- 
spect and report on every job and to insist on a rigid com- 
pliance with the contracts, which required the contractors 
to complete their contracts and have them inspected and 
accepted before they were entitled to payment. Monthly 
advance payments were made when the work was carried 
on in a faithful manner, but, if any deception were dis- 
covered, payments were suspended. Most of the contract- 
ors were men of high standing and financial responsibility 
and performed their work in an acceptible manner. A few 
failed to complete their contracts and their names are given 
in a report of the Canal Commissioners to the Legislature 
in the month of March, 1818, together with the reasons for 
such failure. 

Work progressed, however, on the Erie and on the 
Champlain canals as expeditiously as could be expected. The 
plans were modified in relation to the Champlain canal in 
1817 so as to make the dimensions conform to those of the 
Erie and thereby admit of the passage of boats from the 
Erie through the Champlain canal and avoid the necessity 


, i transferring cargoes at Waterford. The dimensions of 
both the Erie and Champlain canal prisms were 40 feet 
vv ; .it- at the surface of the water, 28 feet w T ide at the bottom 
rf the prisms, which were to be 4 feet deep, with locks 90 
feet long by 15 feet wide and with towing paths from 10 to 
15 feet in width. 

The commissioners decided that the increased dimen- 
sions of the Champlain canal were justified for the reason, 
among others, they say, that those parts of this State and 
of Vermont, which lie contiguous to Lake Champlain, 
abound in material for "masts, spars, ship-timber and lum- 
ber of all descriptions," and that all such bulky articles 
''may be transported through such locks in much larger 
quantities and of course with much more expedition than 
through those of small dimensions." * 

The Canal Commissioners reported to the Legislature 
that about nine tenths of the resident landholders between 
Utica and the Seneca liver and fifty-six persons west of the 
Seneca river had made voluntary cessions of land to the 
State for canal purposes; and in 1819, the Holland Land 
Company granted 100,632 acres in the county of Cattarau- 
gus to the State for that purpose, upon condition that 

"if the contemplated inland navigation between Lake Erie and Hud- 
son's river should not be effectually completed so as to afford a good 
water communication between the said lake and river, for boats of 
at least five tons burthen, by the 19th of August, 1842," 

then all such lands as were unsold should revert to the 
Holland Land Company and the unpaid purchase moneys 
of such lands as were sold should be accounted for and paid 
to the said grantors and the People of the State by the 
terms of the act of April 13. 1819, stipulated to pay to such 
grantors the fair and actual value of such lands, for which 
the State had received payment. All such lands as remained 
unsold in 1842 were to revert to the Holland Land Com- 
pany. 2 

A half or more of the lands for the Champlain canal 
between Fort Edward and Whitehall was voluntarily ceded 

1. Ib. 378. 

3. Ib. 435-437. 



by individuals to the State. Although the building of locks 
was both difficult and costly, their construction was well 
understood by the engineers, Charles C. Brodhead, Benja- 
min Wright, James Geddes, David Thomas and Canvass 
White, who visited Europe to study lock construction and 
returned to supervise the construction of locks on the Erie 
canal. It is said that he was the first to discover water- 
proof lime or cement which was used in hydraulic work on 
the canals. 

X. Problems and Controversies. 

The Commissioners were confronted with many intricate 
and perplexing problems. They were required to devise and 
supervise the building of such structures as the several aque- 
ducts between Schenectady and Little Falls and those over 
Oriskany creek and the Genesee, river, and several others. 
Their engineers may have been familiar with the construc- 
tion of the Roman aqueducts of the Campania and Segovia 
and of the Chirk and Pont Cysylltan aqueducts described 
by Phillips as "among the boldest efforts of human invention 
in modern times." Still it required skill and courage at that 
time to build structures adequate to carry the prism of the 
original Erie canal through marshes and across rivers. The 
aqueduct over the Genesee river was 802 feet long, sustained 
by ten arches of 50 feet span each except one of 30 feet 
span and cost $87, 1 27.6 1. 1 Quicksands were encountered 
in the Cayuga marshes, and these were the occasion of much 
trouble to constructors, when the nine million dollar im- 
provement was under way in 1897. New and unforeseen 

1. 2 N. \. Canal Laws, 547. '1 he remaining principal aqueducts were 
those over the Mohawk, one four miles northeast of Schenectady 748 feet long, 
one 12 miles below Schenectady 118S feet long "resting on twenty-six piers of 
well cut stone laid in water lime cement," one in Kerkimer county 204 feet 
long over the Oriskany creek, one at Little Falls 184 feet long, said to be "one 
of the finest specimens of masonry on the whole line of the canal," "whose 
three beautiful arches carried the canal from 40 to 50 feet above the waters 
of the Mohawk." ("Guide to the Middle and Northern States," p. 203. The 
height was about 30 feet.) One over the Skaneatele-s outlet 100 feet long, one 
over the Oak Orchard creek 60 feet long, one over the Owasco outlet 120 feet 
long, one over Mud creek; and many other smaller aqueducts. 


t'itftlculties repeatedly confronted the canal builders as they 

• »>hV*l forward the work through swamps and marshes of 
the interior of the State. Malaria, fever and other diseases 
;.:;<! low laborers by the scores, and the cold winter months 

• Irt.w them from their work to the shelter of the fireside. 
The work was retarded by sickness caused by the excessive 
and long- continued heat of the summer of 1819, during 
which time about a thousand men were disabled from work, 
between Syracuse and the Seneca river. 1 Provisions were 
both scanty and costly so that the healthy w<ere none too 
well provided for, much less those stricken down with dis- 
ease. All these increased the burdens of the Commissioners, 
and still they did not lose courage. After the water had 
been let into a section of the canal at Schenectady, it perco- 
lated through the banks and it became necessary to use 
courses of sheet piling in places and in other places sand 
was used to line the bottom and the sides to prevent leakage. 

The Canal Commissioners made some changes in the route 
as originally laid out. They decided to proceed south of 
Mud creek from Palmyra to Lyons as recommended by Na- 
than S. Roberts to shorten the distance and save expense. 
They decided to follow' the most northerly route surveyed 
by David Thomas from the Genesee river to Tonawanda 
creek, whose summit level was below the surface of Lake 
Erie, whence it would be practicable to take all the water 
necessary to supply the canal as far east as the Genesee 
river. This w r as the controlling factor in deciding upon that 
route. The summit level of the southerly route through the 
Holland Purchase was estimated to be 75 feet above the sur- 
face of Lake Erie, which would preclude the use of its 
waters for canal purposes. 

The survey of Valentine Gill ran southwesterly from 
Rochester through the counties of Genesee and Niagara into 
the waters of Lake Erie south of the village of Buffalo, and 
the summit level on this proposed route was 94 feet above 
the waters of Lake Erie. This route was submitted to the 
Legislature in 1820, but not adopted. 2 

1. N. Y. Assembly Journal for 18.20, 455. 

2. 1 N. Y. Canal Laws, 45.2, 453. 


The Canal Commissioners decided that the canal prism 
east of the Genesee river should be so constructed as to 
make it possible to use the Irondequoit creek as a feeder. 
This was subsequently found to be impracticable. The 
whole route was divided into three sections. The first or 
western section was 163 miles in length, extending from 
Lake Erie to the Seneca river, and was surveyed- by James 
Gcddes and William Peacock. The sub-section extending 
from Buffalo to the east line of the Holland Purchase was 
assigned to and explored by William Peacock in 1816. The 
sub-section extending from 11 miles up the Tonawanda 
creek to the Seneca river was surveyed by James Geddes. 
Theretofore Joseph Ellicott gave Simeon De Witt, Survey- 
or-General, a description of the country between the Tona- 
wanda creek and the Genesee river and pointed out the 
feasibility of a route for a canal through that territory. 

The middle section was yy miles in length, from Rome to 
the Seneca river, and was surveyed by Benjamin Wright. 

The eastern section was 97 miles in length, extending 
from Rome to the Hudson river, and was surveyed as far 
as Canajoharie creek, a distance of 71 miles and 2J chains 
by Charles C. Broadhead. The country from Rome to Wa- 
terford had been examined under instructions from Simeon 
De Witt in 181 1. 

Under the original survey the Canal Commissioners de- 
termined to connect the west end of the Erie canal with the 
waters of Lake Erie through the mouth of Buffalo. The 
reason for this decision is announced in their report to the 
Legislature under date of February 15, 1817, in the fol- 
lowing terms : 

"From their own examination, the commissioners determined that 
it would be expedient to connect the west end of the great canal, 
with the waters of Lake Erie, through the mouth of Buffalo creek. 
In adopting this determination, they were influenced by the following 
considerations: It is important to have at that end, a safe harbor, 
capable, without much expense, of sufficient enlargement for the 
accommodation of all boats and vessels, that a very extensive 
trade may hereafter require, to enter and exchange their lading 
there. The waters of Lake Erie are higher at the mouth of the 


ftut?.il i, ihtiii they are at Bird Island, or any point farther down the 
.Vuira, anu every inch gained in elevation, will produce a large 
• « v'mg in the expense of excavation, throughout Lake Erie level." 1 

However there was much diversity of views among the 
inhabitants of the villages of Black Rock and Buffalo as to 
the western terminal point of the canal. Engineers were a: 
such variance as to the most desirable place to construct a 
connecting harbor, that the Canal Commissioners employed 
David Thomas of Cayuga county to make surveys of Buf- 
falo creek and Niagara river at Bird Island and report the 
result to them. William Peacock, Joseph Ellicott and James 
Geddes had already surveyed the Buffalo creek and Black 
Rock territory. 

One of the conditions of the donation of lands by the 
Holland Land Company to the State in aid of the construc- 
tion of the Erie canal was that the Buffalo creek should be 
improved in such a manner as to provide an adequate har- 
bor for vessels navigating Lake Erie, where their cargoes 
might be transferred to boats navigating the Erie canal. 
Accordingly an act was passed on April 10, 1818, relative to 
the harbor of Buffalo creek, in the county of Niagara, pro- 
viding for a survey of the outlet of Buffalo creek and the 
submission of a plan for its improvement, so as to form a 
safe and commodious harbor for vessels navigating Lake 
Erie, together with the estimated expense thereof and di- 
recting a report to be made to the Legislature at the next 
session. The supervisors of the county of Niagara were 
required to audit and allow the expense of such survey and 
of the making of a map to accompany the same. 

William Peacock made a survey of Buffalo creek, 2 which 
was presented to the Legislature in 1819 with a map, show- 
ing a stone pier 990 feet long, 30 feet wide at the bottom 
and 10 feet wide at the top and rising six feet above the 
surface of Lake Erie at the estimated cost of $i2,yS'/, but if 
built of wood at Si 0,500.* His map was referred to by 
David Thomas, who afterwards surveyed Buffalo harbor. 

x. lb. 19S. 

a. 5 Pubs. But". Hist. Soc., 197. 

3- lb. 243. 



On April 7, 1819, an act was passed authorizing the 
Comptroller to lend to Jonas Harrison, Ebenezer Walden, 
Heman B. Potter, John G. Camp, Oliver Forward, Albert 
H. Tracy, Ebenezer Johnson, Ebenezer F. Norton and 
Charles Townsend, all well-known Buffalonians of that day, 
the sum of $12,000 on good bond and mortgage security on 
unincumbered real estate, conditioned for payment at the 
end of ten years with interest to commence after five years 
from date of said securities, and conditioned further that 
said money should be applied towards the construction of a 
harbor at the mouth of Buffalo creek on Lake Erie for the 
security of vessels navigating on said lake as the Canal 
Commissioners should direct. By the same act the canal 
commissioners were required to view and examine the en- 
trance into Buffalo creek and if they were of the opinion 
that the same may be improved so as to render it necessary 
or useful as connected with the canal from Lake Erie to the 
tide waters of the Hudson, they should direct the manner 
of the improvement. It was further provided that in case 
the Canal Commissioners did not undertake such improve- 
ment within six months at the expense of the State, they 
were to notify the persons named in this act and thereupon 
they were authorized to go forward with the improvement 
under the direction of the Canal Commissioners, to receive 
the money from the Comptroller and to impose and collect 
tolls on vessels entering such harbor, under regulations ap- 
proved by the commissioners. In the latter case they were 
also authorized to divide the expense into shares and dispose 
of the same and to distribute the receipts for tolls among 
the shareholders under rules to be approved by the commis- 

This plan for the improvement of the Buffalo creek into 
a harbor was something like the system prevailing in Great 
Britain. There commissioners and boards are authorized 
by Parliament to construct harbors and to manage and con- 
trol them subject to public use upon payment of tonnage 
duties by the owners of vessels frequenting them. All the 
ports of Great Britain are still managed by boards of dock 
or harbor commissioners. In 1905, I visited London, Edin- 


burgh, Glasgow, Belfast, Dublin and Liverpool, and found 
their ports in an improved condition, and far superior to 
many other European harbors. It is not surprising that the 
commerce of Great Britain is world-wide and surpasses that 
of other nations of the continent. Credit is due to the mem- 
ory of John Smeaton. He did much to improve the rivers 
and harbors and canals of Great Britain and gave that king- 
dom a start which placed it in the lead of the commercial 
powers of the world. The engineers who planned the arti- 
ficial and improved natural waterways and harbors of this 
State, including the eminent engineers already mentioned of 
the early period, as well as General Francis V, Greene, Col. 
Thomas W. Symons, Hon. Edward A. Bond and other 
members of the Advisory Board of Canal Engineers of this 
later period, have rendered a great service to the people. 

On February 24, 1820, the report of the surveys of the 
Buffalo harbor made by David Thomas and addressed to 
the Canal Commissioners, was presented to the Assembly. 
Among other things in that report, Mr. Thomas says : 

"The depth of water in Buffalo creek is sufficient for a harbor. 
In taking soundings almost up to the ferry (which is one mile from 
the entrance), the least depth observed was 11 feet and this only in 
two places; but the common depth up the stream is from 12 to 14 
feet. About 50 rods above the mouth of Little Buffalo we found 17 
feet, and a few rods within that part of the entrance which is ob- 
structed by sand, we found 19 feet. The breadth of this creek, just 
above Little Buffalo is full 16 rods; but 35 rods above, the breadth 
is only 12 rods." 

He estimated the cost of a pier, which he suggested be 
built "in a westerly direction until a sufficient depth of water 
was attained and then to extend it northerly, nearly parallel 
to the shore," at $4,000. He disapproved of making a har- 
bor at Black Rock, which would necessitate the construction 
of a dam across Niagara river to .Squaw Island, the expense 
of which would be sufficient to discourage the attempt ; and 
the prevailing southwesterly winds down the river, added to 
the current, would render navigation difficult for sailing 
vessels to return from Black Rock up stream into Lake Erie. 
He further says: "In case of hostilities with the British, so 


long as they possess the opposite shore, this harbor would 
be useless." The report is long* and the points made by 
this engineer had great weight with De Witt Clinton, Ben- 
jamin Wright. Nathan S. Roberts and Canvass White, who 
were of the opinion "that the canal ought to be continued to 
and terminate in the Buffalo creek, near the mouth of the 
Little Buffalo creek:' * 

The report of David Thomas was strongly opposed by 
James Geddes, who was decidedly in favor of the Black 
Rock project and who was familiar with the docking facil- 
ities of London. In controverting the position taken by Mr. 
Thomas he says : 

"By the same gentleman (Mr. Thomas) information is obtained, 
that Buffalo creek is deep enough for a mile and one fourth in 
length, and average of three chains wide, making 30 acres of harbor 
in this place. This is not quite as large as the artificial Surport East 
India Dock, which with the Export Dock, amounts to 54 acres, the 
whole site for which was covered either with streets and houses, or 
with gardens. When the destinies of the western country are duly 
considered, says Mr. Haynes, and the riches of our State are duly 
appreciated, it is no visionary calculation to say, that 1,000,000 of 
tons annually will pass through the Western canal, in the course of 
a few years. What would the same enlightened calculator say to a 
harbor, for the emporium of all this trade, not quite so big as an 
artificial dock in London? And if a few years shall do this, what 
will time, running with an accelerated velocity, bring about, before ail 
those now planning for posterity, shall have left the scene?" 

Engineer Nathan S. Roberts, who had: been continuously 
employed and who had a more extended personal knowledge 
of localities, was convinced of the superior eligibility 
of the Black Rock project. David S. Bates, one of the 
resident engineers, was also of the opinion that Black Rock 
was preferable to Buffalo creek. Benjamin Wright, one of 
the best engineers, favored Buffalo creek. The controversy 
between the rival ports waged fiercely and the commercial 
advantages of each were fully exploited. 

The entire commerce at the time on the Great Lakes was 
limited and the vessels were small. In 1819 there were ap- 

1. 3 N. Y. Canal Laws, 531. 


proximately a score of American merchant vessels enrolled 
at ports on Lake Erie. Most of them made their eastern 
harbor at Black Rock in the Niagara river, which afforded 
shelter from the violence of the storms of trie lake. Buffalo 
creek was sluggish and the sandbar extending across its 
mouth interfered with its navigability, although canoes as- 
cended its waters for a distance of nine miles, and lake ves- 
sels at high water a mile and a half. A small shipyard was 
established by Capt. Asa Stannard in 1812 on Scajaquada 
creek, where vessels of 100 tons were built, which has con- 
tinued with occasional interruptions to the present day. The 
firm of Bidwell & Carrick established a shipyard and dry- 
dock at Black Rock about that time. 

The total registered tonnage of the port of Buffalo on 
Maji 17, 1818, as given by the Buffalo Gazette, consisted of 
four vessels, whose carrying capacity was 377 tons. 

Capt. James Sloan says that the merchant marine of the 
port of Buffalo creek in May, 1820, consisted of two boats 
owned by Winthrop Fox that could carry a cord of stone 
each and one boat owned by Jonathan Olmsted that could 
carry a cord and a half, and a skiff owned by a Mr. Skate 
and a canoe owned by Mr. Meadows. A little later a yawl 
boat and a scow were added. 1 The tonnage of the vessels 
enrolled at Black Rock may have been some larger. This 
did not include the ownership of Buffalonians in vessels en- 
rolled at other lake ports. 

Johnson, in his "Centennial History of Erie County," 
says: "The mouth of the creek (Buffalo) was 60 rods 
north of where it is now, the stream running for that dis- 
tance nearly parallel with the lake." When the harbor was 
first constructed the bed of the creek was straightened so 
that it flowed westerly into the lake. Some of the members 
of the Harbor Association, comprising the gentlemen named 
in the act of April 17, 1819, were unwilling to pledge their 
individual property to the State to secure the $12,000 loan; 
and Samuel Wilkeson, Charles Townsend and Oliver For- 
ward furnished the requisite security to obtain the loan. 
After they had expended most of the money in building a 

1. 5 Pubs. Buf. Hist. Soc. 233. 


harbor at Buffalo creek an act was passed on April 17, 1822, 
limiting- the. amount of the loan to $12,000, and rendering 
the collection of tolls, authorized by the original act, im- 
practicable for the reason that vessels would not enter the 
port of Buffalo and pay tolls, when they were permitted to 
enter the harbor at Black Rock, for the construction of 
which $12,000 had been appropriated by the State and where 
no tolls were imposed. 1 This advantage of Black Rock 
over Buffalo intensified the feeling of rivalry between the 
two villages and their race to secure the western terminus of 
the Erie canal. It culminated in 1822 at the hearing given 
by the Canal Commissioners, attended by De Witt Clinton, 
Stephen Van Rensselaer, Henry Seymour, Myron Holley 
and Samuel Young, at which General Peter B. Porter, who 
had been a Canal Commissioner from 1S10 to 1S16, pre- 
sented the arguments in favor of Black Rock, and Samuel 
Wilkeson those in favor of Buffalo. This hearing was also 
attended by James Geddes, Benjamin Wright, David 
Thomas, Canvass White, and Nathan S. Roberts, canal en- 
gineers, some of whom had surveyed the sites in controversy. 
After a most animated discussion of the points involved and 
after mature deliberation on the part of the Canal Commis- 
sioners, some of whom had given long consideration to the 
commercial features of the two ports in relation to the 
western terminus, a decision was given to Buffalo creek 
mainly on account of its higher level whence an abundant 
supply of water might be taken to feed the canal and also 
on account of its superior adaptability for an extensive har- 
bor to accommodate the commerce of the Great Lakes. 

The western terminal matter, however, continued to be 
agitated for a year after the decision was made. During 
this time people of Buffalo became alarmed at a rumor to 
the effect that the Canal Commissioners had reconsidered 
their action and decided in favor of Black Rock as the west- 
ern terminus of the Erie canal. Thereupon they circulated a 
subscription to raise funds "to open an uninterrupted canal 
navigation upon the margin of the Niagara river, on the 
plan proposed by David Thomas, from the point where the 

1. 2 N. Y. Canal Laws, 90, 92. 


line established by him will intercept Porter's Basin, to the 
:k -in: where it is proposed to clam the arm of the said river 
to Squaw Island," and secured subscriptions amounting to 
$11,41 > for that purpose. In addition thereto Louis Le 
Couteulx donated half an acre of land fronting on the canal 
for the same purpose. "One effect of the course adopted 
by the meeting at Buffalo,'' say the Commissioners in their 
annual report to the Legislature, under date of February 24, 
1823, "was to postpone the ultimate decision of the harbor 
question for one year; and this, it was thought, would not 
involve any public injury, because the harbor at either place, 
might, notwithstanding the postponement, be completed 
within the two seasons yet required to complete the canal 
through the mountain ridge. In the meantime, the citizens 
of Buffalo have had the opportunity of completing their 
works ; and the people of Black Rock, in consequence of the 
intimation afforded them, by the above determination, have 
constructed about 16 rods of pier, in the rapid waters below 
Bird Island, for the purpose of testing experimentally the 
permanency of a mole which, on their plan of a harbor, 
must be extended from Bird Island to Squaw Island." x 

Another effect of the decision of the Canal Commission- 
ers was to encourage the people of Black Rock to apply to 
the Legislature for immediate legislation and an appropria- 
tion for the construction of a harbor at Black Rock upon a 
plan proposed in the report of James Geddes under date of 
February, 182 1. They were successful as evidenced by the 
passage on April 17, 1822, of an act "To authorize and 1 en- 
courage the construction of harbors of Buffalo creek and 
Black Rock," known as Chapter 251 of the Laws of 1822. 
By this act there was appropriated $12,000 for a harbor at 
Black Rock, and the Canal Commissioners entered into a 
contract in 1822, with Peter B. Porter and Sheldon Thomp- 
son, who were authorized so to do by the citizens of Black- 
Rock, for the construction of 530 rods of mole or pier to 
connect Bird Island and Squaw Island and. 30 rods to unite 
the latter island with the main land. The pier was to be 
16 feet in height and 18 feet in width. They were also to 

1. lb. 96. 


construct 260 rods of embankment along- the eastern shore 
of Squaw Island, which was to be 30 feet broad at the base 
and 6 feet at the top. They were also to construct a tow- 
path two miles and 27 chains in length on the easterly side 
of the harbor and a lock between the harbor and the river. 
The contract price for this work was $83,819, which in- 
cluded the Black Rock appropriation of $12,000. As the 
pier was constructed there was some apprehension that it 
would be carried away by the storms of Lake Erie or by 
the fields of floating ice in the spring-time/ which might, 
in the language of Marlow, 

"Open an entrance for the wasteful sea, 
Whose billows, beating the resistless banks, 
Shall overflow it with their refluence." 2 

After its construction the Bird Island pier was damaged 
on two or more occasions and then repaired, and it has now 
withstood for nearly a century and will form the outer pier 
of the improved Black Rock harbor now being constructed 
by the United States Government. 

The harbor controversy was set at rest in 1823 when "the 
canal line from Little Buffalo creek to the upper end of the 
proposed Black Rock harbor, being nearly two miles in ex- 
tent," was placed under contract in accordance with the 
unanimous opinion of the canal engineers, Benjamin 
Wright, David Thomas, Nathan S. Roberts and Canvass 
White, "that the canal ought to be continued to and termin- 
ate in Buffalo creek, near the mouth of Little Buffalo 
creek." 3 This conclusion was a logical result of the long 
controversy of the two villages which had divided engineers 
and embroiled canal advocates within and without the Leg- 
islature. The waters of the Niagara river in the vicinity of 
Bird Island and Black Rock harbor were shallow and rapid 
and rendered their navigation by vessels of moderate draft 
difficult and dangerous. This was known to the Canal 
Commissioners, who wisely planned for a much larger har- 

1. lb. 150-159. 

2. Marlow's "Jew of Malta." 

3. 2 N. Y. Canal Laws, 96, 531. 


bor than it was possible to. build at Black Rock. Shortly 
after the completion of the Erie canal, Black Rock harbor 
Ibecan to lose and Buffalo continued to gain in commerce. 
This was in part due to canal traffic and' in part to the su- 
perior harbor facilities of the latter port. When the city 
charter was revised in 1853, Black Rock and its harbor be- 
came a part of Buffalo and their interests thereafter were 

1. For a general narrative of the history of Buffalo harbor (to 1902), by 
Major (now Colonel) Thos. W. Symons and John C. Quintus, see 5 Pubs. Buf. 
Hist. Soc, 239-285. 

2. J. O. Curwcod in Putnam's Magazine, Sept. 190S. 

The harbor of Buffalo is one of the largest and most 
commodious on the Great Lakes. Its growth has been un- 
precedented. It has far exceeded the most extravagant 
predictions of Judge Samuel Wilkeson, DeWitt Clinton and 
other Buffalo creek advocates. In 1907, the lake and canal 
tonnage of the port of Buffalo was 16,601,697 tons, which 
gave it the fifth position in rank of the largest commercial 
ports of the world. "As Duluth is the logical shipping 
and receiving port of the West, so is Buffalo the great re- 
ceiving and distributing port of the East/' 2 There were re- 
ceived in 1S80 at the port of Buffalo 105,133,009 bushels of 
grain; in the year 1890, 91,994,680 bushels; in the year 
1900, 157,655,969 bushels and in the year 1907, 132,438,798 

In the year 1898, there were received at the port of Buf- 
falo 221,383,945 bushels. No other port in the world is 
equipped to handle such a vast quantity of grain in a single 
season of seven months of open navigation. In 1907 one of 
the large lake freighters, owned by the Weston Transit 
Company of Tonawanda, the LeGrand S. DeGraff, brought 
into the port of Buffalo 421,161 bushels of wheat, weighing 
12,659 tons, which is undoubtedly the largest single cargo of 
grain ever transported over water. The Alexandrian grain 
ships, whose approach around the promontory of Surrentum 
was signaled by the running up of topsails and the procla- 
mation of a holiday, in which Roman senators and other of- 
ficials, and the population far and near, united 1 in joyous ac- 


damations at the port of Puteoli, carried no such larg-e car- 
goes, although such as they did carry were so necessary for 
the support of the inhabitants that their vessels were accom- 
panied by an escort of war galleys and hailed as "aus- 
picious" and "sacred." 

May the time never come when the needs of our popula- 
tion will be such as to make this nation dependent on any 
other for the necessaries of life. The enormous traffic of 
cereals, flour, rice and other edible commodities over the 
waterways of the world is such a distribution of food stuffs 
as to supply the wants of millions of people out of reach of 
railway transportation, as may be judged from the follow- 
ing facts : 

The Yansrtse river, navigable for 6So miles from the sea 
for ocean-going steamers and for ordinary steamers 370 
miles farther, and for junks 440 miles still farther up its 
channel and for small river craft, 500 miles higher still, ag- 
gregating 2,000 miles of navigable waters, is the great 
artery of commerce and conveyor of life-sustaining products 
for millions of Chinese. The Yellow river, navigable in 
sections by thousands of river boats ; the Wang-poo, the 
Han, the Si-Kiang or West river, the Huai-Ho, the Pei or 
Canton river; and the Grand canal, carry millions of tons 
of traffic annually to and from the densely populated por- 
tions of that empire. 

The water-borne commerce over the waterways of Euro- 
pean Russia in 1897, as given by Major F. A. Mahan of the 
Corps of Engineers of the United States Army, was 27,- 
800,000 tons, of which 52 per cent, was in the basin of the 
Volga, 15 per cent, in the basin of the Neva, 12 per cent, in 
two parts of the Dnieper, 6 per cent, in that of West Dwina, 
5 per cent, in that of the Niemen, 3 per cent, for the North 
Dwina and the Don, 1^2 per cent, for the Bug, I per cent, 
for the Narova and 1 per cent, for all other streams. 
Consul Heingartner of Riga reported in 1907 that the Rus- 
sian Government was planning to construct a canal from 
the Baltic to the Black sea and to intercept some of its 
rivers which together would increase its waterways 1525 
miles in length at an estimated cost of $130,000,000. 


Jn 1 901 there were 7397 miles of canals and canalized 
rivers in France, which cost $329,258,000. The tonnage 
over these in 1906, aggregated 33>739>3 02 tons - Austria- 
Hungary has approximately 1500 miles of canals and 2500 
miles of navigable rivers. Belgium has 1350 miles of nav- 
igable waterways, the Netherlands 1907 miles and Germany 
1709 miles of canals and 15 15 miles of canalized rivers. In 
1900 the tonnage of the Rhine was 9,285,000 kilometric 
tons, that of the Elbe 4,195,000 kilometric tons and that of 
the Oder 1,603,000 kilometric tons. Through the great 
Rathenow lock, whose dimensions are 210 meters in length 
and 9.6 meters in width, built recently, there passed in the 
year 1900 from the Elbe 8,915 vessels, carrying 1,500,000 
tons and to the Elbe 8,363 vessels carrying 585,000 tons. 
There were locked through the Brandenburg lock in 1900 
from the Elbe 17,900 vessels carrying 2,458,000 tons and 1 to 
the Elbe 17,465 vssels carrying 1,062,000 tons. This is 
some indication of the extensive commerce over the water- 
ways of Germany, whose improvement is now going for- 
ward under the supervision of commissioners and Dr. Leo 
Sympher, "Geheimer Obcrbauerat," of Berlin, concerning, 
whom I speak later in this paper. 1 

In his "Die Entwicklung Der Preussischen Wasserstrassen" Dr. Leo 
Sympher (p. 1S9) says: "Ein Vcrgleich beider Zusammenstellungen ergiebt 
Folge ndes: 

"1. Die Transportleistung der Wasserstrassen hat sich in 25 Jahren Ton 
2,900,000,000 auf 11,500,000,000 Tonnenkilometer erhoht, ohne dass die Lange 
der wirklich befahrerien Wasserstrassen wesentlich zugenommen hatte. Dagegen 
stieg bei den Eisenbahnen, deren Lange von 36,500 km im Jahre 1875 auf 
49.600 km im Jahre 1900 zunahm, die Guterbewegung in demselben Zeitraum 
von 10,900 auf 36,900 Millionen Tonnenkilometer. 

"2. Von dem Gesammtguterverkehr Deutschlands, der im Jahre 1875 
13,800 Millionen und 1900 48,400 Millionen Tonnenkilometern betrug, entfielen 
auf die Eisenbahnen 1875, 79 und 1900, 76 vom Hundert, auf die Wasserstras- 
sen im ersten Jahre 21 und im letzten Jahre 24. vom Hundert." 

Translation: "A comparison of the two methods of transportation: The 
transportation over the waterways has increased in twenty-five years from 
2.900,000,000 to 11,500,000,000 kilometric tons without any increase in the 
length of navigable waterways; while the unit length of railroads has been 
extended from 26,500 km. in the year 1875 to 49,600 km. in 1900. The freight 
carried in that time increased from 10,900 to 36,900 million kilometric tons. 

"Of the total tonnage of freight carried in Germany, which amounted to 
13,800 millions ton kilometers in 1875 and in 1900 to 48,400 millions ton kilo- 
meters, 79 per cent, was moved by rail in 1S75 an< 3 in 1900 76 per cent., and 
there was transported by water in 1875 21 per cent, and in 1900 24 per cent." 


The commission appointed by the German Government 
to decide upon the dimensions of the Rhine-Herne canal 
reported in December, 1907, adversely to the proposed in- 
crease of the locks from 10 to 12 meters in width to con- 
form to the dimensions of the Rhine-Weser canal as regu- 
lated by a law enacted in April, 1905. This increase would 
have permitted the navigation of the Rhine-Herne canal by 
boats 80 meters long and 9 meters wide, with a draft of 1^ 
meters, carrying 900 tons, or by those with a draft of 2 
meters, carrying 1,000 tons; whereas boats 65 meters long 
and 8 meters wide carry but 600 tons. Recently boats have 
been built 6j meters long, 8 2-10 meters wide, with a draft 
of 2 meters, carrying 800 tons, and others with a draft of 
2*4 meters carrying 900 tons. The dimensions of the locks 
on the Dortmund-Ems canal are 85 meters long, 12 meters 
wide and from 3^ to 4 meters in depth, which are substan- 
tially the dimensions of the locks in the new barge canals. 

No government has given more intelligent consideration 
to waterways than has Germany under such eminent en- 
gineers as Dr. Leo Sympher, of Berlin, whom I had the 
pleasure of meeting in Berlin in June, 1905, and with whom 
I have since been in correspondence in relation to problems 
involved in canal construction. Most of these problems 
have already been scientifically solved in Germany. The 
topography of that country readily admits of waterway con- 
struction from Breslau, Posen and Bromberg on the east 
to Strasburg, Mannheim, Dortmund and Bremen on the 
west; and nearly every question in engineering, in lock 
construction, in hydraulic and electrically operated locks, in 
the rectification of river courses and their canalization, in 
steam and electric propulsion of vessels and in tractive re- 
sistance, the subject of extensive experiments under Herr 
R. Haack as well as under C. V. Suppau of Austria and F. 
B. De Mas, Minister of Public Works of France, has been 
studied in a thoroughly scientific spirit and practically 

In 1905 I inspected the Teltow canal, which connects the 
river Spree with the Havel, south of Berlin, to relieve the 
congestion of vessels in that city, and found it installed 


with a modern electric equipment for hauling vessels along 
its course, which was considered a financial success on ac- 
count of the immense traffic, whereas such an equipment 
might not be a financial success along greater distances 
with less traffic. Dr. Sympher expressed to me his disap- 
proval of the scheme known as "the electric mule" as im- 
practical as a means of canal propulsion. 

The German waterways intercommunicate from the 
Oder, Spree, Havel and Elbe on the east with the Main, 
Weser and Rhine on the west, and it is possible to traverse 
nearly the entire empire in boats of 500 tons capacity. The 
hundreds of vessels on the Spree, the Oder, the Havel and 
on the communicating canals in and about Berlin, Potsdam 
and Spandau form picturesque flotillas and swell the com- 
merce and intensify the life of the German capital, whose 
tonnage thus far wholly over interior waterways (the Stet- 
tin ship-canal not having been completed), exceeds 6,000,- 
000 tons annually, or nearly one-third of that of the foreign 
commerce of the port of New York. 

Most of the countries above named are making or plan- 
ning extensions and improvements in their respective sys- 
tems of waterways. Some of these will be hereinafter de- 
scribed in this paper. The statesmen of these foreign coun- 
tries realize their importance and, reflecting public senti- 
ment as they do, are likely to suffer nothing to be done that 
would tend to their abandonment. 

The possibilities of inland water navigation in the United 
States are hardly less extensive. There are approximately 
25,000 miles of navigable rivers, 2,500 miles of canals, and 
several thousand miles of sounds and bays, which might be 
brought into navigable communication by the construction 
of connecting canals. The importance of this is shown by 
the traffic over the waters of the Chesapeake Bay, which 
during the fiscal year ending on June 30, 1907, amounted to 
2,000,000 bushels of wheat, in addition to large quantities of 
other agricultural products. 

The traffic over the waterways of the United States, as 
shown in the census reports of the year 1906, was 265,546,- 
845 net tons, including harbor and coastwise traffic. Of this 



vast tonnage there were carried on the Great Lakes and the 
St. Lawrence river 75,610,690 tons, and on the Mississippi 
river and its tributaries, 27,856,641 tons, and on other in- 
land waterways 3.944,655 tons. There were transported on 
the Atlantic coast and the Gulf of Mexico, 140,512,043 tons, 
and on the Pacific coast, including Alaska, 17,622,816 tons. 
Some of the principal commodities transported were: Coal, 
aggregating 49,109,605 tons; iron ore, 41,524,102 tons; 
petroleum and other oils, 30,029,513 tons; stone, sand, etc., 
14,659,972 tons; lumber, 7,111,144 tons; grain, 5,792,612 
tons; cement, brick and lime, 5,165,051 tons. 

This enormous traffic was carried on in 37,321 vessels, 
costing $507,973,121, employing 140,929 men, the income 
of which vessels was $294,854,532, and the wages paid was 
$71,636,521. There were carried in addition to the freight 
366,825,663 passengers over such waterways. 

The importance and magnitude of transportation by water 
so impressed the President and Congress of the United 
States, that the President was authorized and did appoint, 
on March 14, 1907, a commission to consider the question 
of the control of the navigable waterways of the United 
States with a view to their conservation and improvement. 
That commission made its preliminary report to the Presi- 
dent and the Congress of the United States on February 3, 
1908, in which, among other things, they recommended 
"that the Congress be asked to make suitable provision for 
improving the inland waterways of the United States at a 
rate commensurate with the needs of the people as deter- 
mined by competent authority, and the sum of $50,000 was 
appropriated by Congress for that purpose. 

XL Resources and Revenues. 

The builders of the Erie and Champlain canals were fully 
alive to the importance commercially of adequate and eco- 
nomical transportation facilities in this State and surmounted 
all difficulties as best they could without arousing unneces- 
sary opposition or becoming hopelessly involved in personal 


animosities or in local jealousies. They knew that they were 
building for the future as well as their own generation. 
They subordinated their personal differences for the com- 
monweal and went forward' with such light as they had. 

The engineering problems were not the only ones that 
troubled them. It was necessary to have available money in 
large amounts to meet payments for canal construction as 
the work went on. It became necessary to formulate a fiscal 
policy that would yield adequate revenue ; and in addition to 
that act of 1817, other measures were devised for this pur- 

By the provisions of an act passed April 21, 1S18, en- 
titled "An act to improve the funds and to provide for the re- 
demption of the funded debt of this State." the Comptroller 
was authorized to sell the three per cent, stock of the United 
States owned by the people of this State and to apply the 
proceeds to the reduction of the funded 1 debt of the State, 
bearing seven per cent, interest. By said act he was also 
authorized to borrow on the credit of the State a million 
dollars at six per cent., and for that purpose he opened sub- 
scriptions for such loan and to issue certificates to subscrib- 
ers thereto, bearing six per cent, interest, payable quarterly, 
and the principal to be irredeemable until January 1, 1823; 
but at the request of the holders redeemable within five years 
thereafter, and a tax of one mill on each dollar of the prop- 
erty within the State was to be annually imposed to discharge 
the then existing debt of the State. 

The act further provides an elaborate scheme for issuing 
State certificates, purporting in substance as follows : "That 
the people of the State of New York, owe to the person or 
body corporate to be named therein, the sum therein ex- 
pressed, bearing an interest at the rate of six per centum 
per annum, payable quarterly yearly, on the first days of the 
months of January, April, July and October, and the prin- 
cipal to be irredeemable until the first day of January, in 
the year one thousand eight hundred and twenty-three," and 
for the required transfer of such certificates a list of the 
holders of which was transmitted annually to the Comptrol- 
ler. The Comptroller was also authorized to apply surplus 


moneys in the Treasury to the purchase of such stock cer- 
tificates at or below par or nominal value. 

The aggregate amount of the outstanding State canal 
debt in the year 1823, was $5,899,500, or 2 2/10 per cent, of 
the assessed valuation of the property of the State, and in 
the year 1826 it was $7,737,770, or 2 5/10 per cent, of the 
assessed valuation of the property of the State. 

In 1844 it was $20,713,905, or 3 8/10 per cent, of the as- 
sessed valuation of the property of the State, the largest 
per cent, in the history of the State and a much larger per 
cent, than that to be produced by one hundred and one mil- 
lion outstanding canal bonds. That will not exceed one per 
cent, of the assessed valuation of the property of the State. 

In the annual address of Governor Clinton to the Legis- 
lature of 1819, he reviews the progress of canal construction 
to that date and says that before the close of the next season 
23 miles of canal, between Whitehall and Fort Edward, will 
have been completed and that 94 miles of the middle section 
of the western canal will have been completed, and he esti- 
mates that the whole canal system will be completed within 
six years from that time. The predictions were fulfilled. 
He called attention to the fact that the work was being car- 
ried forward within the estimates and that sections of the 
canal would be completed, so that they could be put into 
operation and a revenue derived from the traffic thereon. 

He stated that the existing charges on a ton of com- 
modities from Buffalo to Albany by land was $100 and to 
Montreal, principally by water, was but $25 ; ''hence it is 
obvious," he said, "that the whole of the vast region to the 
west of that flourishing village (Buffalo) and the greater 
part of the extensive and fertile country east of it, are pre- 
vented from sending their productions to our commercial 
emporium, and that they must either resort to the precarious 
markets of Canada, or to places more distant, less accessible, 
or less advantageous. When the great western canal is fin- 
ished, the expense of transportation from Buffalo to Albany 
will not exceed ten dollars a ton. ... If half a million of 
tons are, at the present period, transported on the waters of 
the Hudson river, it is reasonable to suppose that the time 


is not distant when the commodities conveyed on the canals 
will be equal in amount. A small transit duty will conse- 
quently produce an immense income, applicable to the 
speedy extinguishment of the debt contracted for the canals, 
and to the prosecution of other important improvements. In 
these works, then, we behold the operation of a powerful 
engine of finance, and of a prolific source of revenue. . . . 
1 look forward with pleasure to the speedy arrival of the 
time, when the State will be able to improve the navigation 
of the Susquehannah, the Allegheny, the Genesee and the 
St. Lawrence — to assist in connecting the waters of the 
Great Lakes and of the Mississippi — to form a junction be- 
tween the western canal and Lake Ontario, by the Oswego 
river, and to promote the laudable intention of Pennsylvania 
to unite the Seneca lake with the head-water3 of the Sus- 

The reduction of the expense of the transportation of a 
ton of merchandise from Buffalo to Albany from $100, the 
then existing rate, to $10, the predicted reduced, rate, is to 
us of the present day in view of what followed, an interest- 
ing matter. Such were some of the benefits which the people 
of that day expected to derive from the construction of the 
Erie canal, and appeared to Governor Clinton to be one of 
the controlling reasons justifying the expenditure of the 
money necessary to accomplish that result. This is still mort 
interesting to us in view of the further reduced rate, as 
predicted by Colonel Thomas W. Symons, of transportation 
of a ton over the new barge canal from BufTalo to tidewater, 
at 26 cents, or at the ratio of 52/100 of a mill per ton per 

The predictions of Governor Clinton in regard to the 
tonnage were fulfilled within a very few years and that ton- 
nage continued to increase over the enlarged and lateral 
canals until the year 1872, when the aggregate tonnage on 
all the canals of the State was 6,673,370 tons, which paid in 
tolls to the State that year $3,720,411 and in freights $7,- 
576,300, or an aggregate revenue to the State of $10,648,711, 
— more than the entire cost of the original Erie, Champlain 
and Oswego canals. 



The revenues derived from the operation of completed 
sections of the Erie aggregated as follows: 

In 1820 the tolls on the Eric were $ 5437-34 

In 1821 the tolls on the Erie were 23,000.00 

In 1822 the tolls on the Erie were 57,160.39 

In 1823 the tolls on the Erie were io 5-°37-35 

In 1824 the tolls on the Erie were 294,546.62 

In 1825 the tolls on the Erie were 492,664.23 

These receipts were a substantial gain to the then limited 
resources of the State and materially aided the Canal Com- 
missioners in carrying forward the work without resorting 
to sources of revenue other than those provided for in the 
original and supplemental acts authorizing and directing the 
prosecution of canal construction. 

In 1 8 19 the Assembly made formal answer to Governor 
Clinton's speech through the chairman of the committee, 
Mr. J. V. N. Yates, in which among other things the com- 
mittee reported : 

"The benefits resulting from an extended inland navigation, suc- 
cessfully conducted, are incalculably great. Whether they are consid- 
ered in a moral, political, commercial or agricultural point of view, 
they are alike essential to our national character and glory. We 
rejoice, therefore, to learn, that those great works, begun and con- 
tinued under the most favorable auspices, promise to realize our 
warmest expectations; and, it will be an object of the first import- 
ance, to hasten their complete execution by every suitable means con- 
sistent with the ability of the State. . . . Future generations may, 
perhaps, form some estimate of their value, and prize them among 
the noblest monuments of human skill and perseverance; and, when 
the fugitive scenes of the present times shall have long since perished 
in oblivion, these works will remain to declare the glory of our coun- 
try, and to pronounce the best eulogium upon the memory of their 
founders and patrons." 

In the Senate a somewhat similar response was given to 
the Governor's speech through the chairman of the com- 
mittee, Henry Yates, Jr. Both of these clearly reveal the 
awakened interest in the construction of internal waterways 
through the State and the broad comprehensive view enter- 
tained by those identified with the project. 


On April 7, 181 9, the Legislature passed an act "Con- 
cerning the Great Western and Northern Canals," authoriz- 
ing the "commissioners of the canal fund, in addition to the 
sums which they are already authorized to borrow, to bor- 
row, from time to time, monies, on the credit of the State, 
at a rate not exceeding six per centum per annum, and not 
exceeding in any one year a sum, which together with the 
net income of the canal fund, and with the sums which they 
are already authorized to borrow, shall amount to six hun- 
dred thousand dollars ; for which monies so to be borrowed, 
certificates of stock shall be issued in the manner directed 
in and by the act entitled 'an act to improve the funds, and 
to provide for the redemption of the funded debt of this 
State,' payable at such time or times as may be determined 
by the said board, out of the said canal fund, and to pay to 
the canal commissioners the monies so to be borrowed." 1 

By the second section of said act, the Canal Commission- 
ers were authorized and empowered, 

"in behalf of the State and on the credit of the canal fund, to pro- 
ceed to open communications by canals and locks, between the Seneca 
river and Lake Erie; between such point on the Mohawk river 
where the middle section of the great western canal shall terminate 
and the Hudson river; between Fort Edward and the navigable 
waters of the Hudson river, and between the great western canal, 
and the salt works in the village of Salina ; to receive, from time to 
time, from the commissioners of the canal fund, such monies as may 
be necessary for and applicable to the objects hereby contemplated; 
to cause the same to be expended in the most economical and prudent 
manner in all such works as may be proper to make the said canals 
and locks, and on completing any of the works contemplated by this 
act; to establish reasonable tolls, and adopt all measures necessary 
for the collection and payment thereof to the commissioners of the 
canal fund." 

By the third section of said act, the Canal Commissioners 
were empowered to take possession of lands and a plan for 
condemnation proceedings was provided similar to that in 
the act of 1817. 

The annual reports of the Canal Commissioners to the 
Legislature throw much light on the conditions existing in 

1. 1 N. Y. Canal Laws, 433. 


! t 


the State during the period of canal construction, extending 
from July 4, 1817, to October 26, 1825. These form an es- 
sential part of the history of the State. The territory, 
through which the Erie and Champlain canals were con- 
structed, comprises some of the fairest portions of the State, 
where settlements were being made by the heads of its lead- 
ing families. The work was extensive and required large 
forces of laborers, and involved an expenditure of large 
sums of money on the various sections under construction ; 
and in one way or another the work was brought in touch 
with a majority of the inhabitants of the State. Towns and 
villages began to spring into being along the routes of the 
Erie and Champlain canals, and as fast as the various sec- 
tions were completed, celebrations were held and traffic was 
begun over them. 

Governor Clinton, in his speech to the Legislature of 
1820, said: 

"In less than two years and five months one hundred and twenty 
miles of artificial navigation have been finished and thus the physical 
as well as the financial practicability of uniting the waters of the 
western and northern lakes with the Atlantic ocean has been estab- 
lished beyond the reach of doubt or cavil. The efforts of direct hos- 
tility to the system of internal improvements will be feeble. . . . 
The expense of carrying a barrel of flour by land to Albany from 
the country about Cayuga lake was more than twice as much as the 
exportation of one from New York to Liverpool." 1 

On April 13, 1820, the Legislature passed an act, entitled, 
"For the maintenance and protection of the Erie and Cham- 
plain canals, and the works connected therewith," whereby 
rules and regulations were authorized for the control of 
boats navigating such waterways, and providing against ob- 
structions being placed therein and regulating the rate of 
speed ; providing for inspection, weighing, and payment of 
tolls to collectors, and prescribing rates of tolls and general 
supervision and superintendence of such waterways. 

In the report of the Canal Commissioners to the Legisla- 
ture, under date of March 12, 1821, may be found a state- 

1. Ib. 437-439- 


merit of the rates of toll charged and the sums collected on 
the completed sections of the canal. In this same report, in 
speaking of the services rendered by the engineers, they say : 

"In looking back to the numerous difficulties, and responsibilities, 
some of them of an aspect the most disheartening, which surrounded 
the canals, especially in their commencement, we feel compelled, by 
common justice, to commend the aid, which has been, at all times, 
afforded by our engineers. In the selection of all the persons, who 
are now employed by us, under this character, we have been emi- 
nently fortunate. But to the Hon. Benjamin Wright and James 
Geddes, the State is mostly indebted. Possessing much local infor- 
mation, competent science, long experience in many kinds of business 
hearing some analogy to canal operations, and well established char- 
acters for industry and fidelity, these gentlemen have rendered the 
most essential services, in all the duties of their department. They 
were first appointed engineers; they have unceasingly, and with im- 
proving fitness, devoted their best faculties to the great cause in 
which they were engaged. And they have hitherto been found equal 
to the high trusts confided to them." 

They further state in this report that : 

"The State has now been engaged, nearly four years, in the actual 
construction of the Erie and Champlain canals. And the success of 
her efforts has been, at least, equal to the expectation of the most 
ardent advocates of these measures. This success could not have 
been attained, without care, vigilance, discretion and energy, in the 
complicated and arduous labors, of which it is the fruit. And these 
labors could not have been performed, without the support of a wise 
foresight and just liberality, in several successive legislatures. To 
us, it appears, that these legislatures have afforded a spectacle most 
animating, encouraging, and delightful, in reference to the sagacity 
of the people to understand, and their wisdom to provide for, their 
most substantial interests. They exhibit the most impressive ex- 
ample, which the United States have yet produced, since the adoption 
of the Federal Constitution, of the beneficent effects of free govern- 
ment, upon the character of a community. They are intimately con- 
nected with the best hopes of the republic. Rising above all fugitive 
and partial interests, and with a full detail of the costs of these works 
before them, the immediate representatives of the people, have so 
clearly discerned the benefits which they would introduce, as to apply 
to them from year to year, a greater proportion of their funds than 



is sufficient to defray the ordinary expenses of their State govern- 
ment." * 

In the convention of 1821 the canals of this State re- 
ceived their first constitutional consideration. Among the 
questions discussed was that relating to tolls. Chancellor 
Kent, whose vote was the decisive one in Council of Re- 
vision when the original canal law was approved in 1817, 
said (as reported in abstract) : 

"The rates and duties were now very low, and they ought to be 
pledged as they now stand, if we meant to make 2 sure and efficient 
pledge to the public creditors. The canal undertaking was an im- 
mense one, and would create, before it was completed, an enormous 
State debt, and it was essential to our credit, and prosperity, and 
character, that the debt should be funded on the most solid basis, and 
not left to the future pleasure of the Legislature. This State h2s 
committed itself so far in the prosecution of the work, that it cannot 
recede, and must go forward and complete it, and unless we now 
permanently, by constitutional provision, appropriate these funds to 
the redemption of the debt, which was already created, and which 
should hereafter be incurred, it were deeply to be regretted that the 
subject was ever brought forward in the convention. It was politic 
and honest to give such a satisfactory pledge of our public faith and 
ability. We should most materially wound our credit, and impair 
our ability to proceed, if we now withheld that assurance from the 
creditors. No fund could be more justly appropriated, since the debt 
arose out of the very subject of the canals and the burden would 
operate equally and fairly upon every part of the State, since the tolls 
and duties would fall upon the consumers of the products conveyed 
to and fro upon the canals, and that consumption would generally be 
in a ratio to the population." J 

Chancellor -Kent and others prevailed and there was in- 
serted in the Constitution of 1821, Section 10 of Article 7, 
which, among other things, continued the imposition of tolls, 
the duties on goods sold at auction, duties on salt, the an- 
nual tax of $5,000 levied on steamboats, and provided that 
all these except prior appropriations therefrom should be 
applied to the payment of interest and to reimburse the prin- 

1. a N. Y. Canal Laws, 22, 23. 

2. "Reports of the Proceedings and Debates of the Convention of 182 1 
..." 565. 


cipal borrowed' to complete navigable communications be- 
tween the great western and northern lakes and the Atlantic 
ocean and until the complete payment of such principal and 
interest be made; and in substance, that the Legislature 
should never sell or dispose of said navigable communica- 
tions, or any part or section thereof, but the same should be 
and remain the property of the State. Chancellor Kent and 
others thus early in this State provided against such a dis- 
posal of its canals as occurred in Pennsylvania through 
which that commonwealth lost its canals to its railway cor- 

XII. Further Development — Political Phases. 

At the opening of each session of the Legislature during 
the period of canal construction, the Governor then in office 
addressed himself, among other things, to the progress be- 
ing made and to various phases of the work which he con- 
sidered required special consideration. In addition to this 
the Canal Commissioners made their annual report to the 
Legislature in which they reviewed the progress of the 
work during the preceding year and made special recom- 
mendations as to matters demanding additional legislation. 
These reports form a comprehensive history of canal con- 
struction at that period and were examined with care and 
formally reported upon by the canal committees of the two 
branches of the Legislature, together with proposed legisla- 
tion necessary to carry into effect the recommendations of 
the Canal Commissioners. As the work neared completion, 
outlying communities became interested 1 in canal construc- 
tion and frequently petitioned the Legislature that additional 
powers be conferred upon the commissioners to take into 
consideration and report upon lateral waterways, with a 
view of bringing them into navigable communication with 
the trunk canals. The impetus given to business along the 
Erie and Champlain canals as soon as portions of them were 
open to navigation was such that communities all over the 
State were eager for the extension of the artificial water- 
ways to the remote sections of the State. 


In 1821, the Ontario Canal Company was incorporated 
for the purpose of constructing a canal from the Canan- 
daigua Lake to the Erie canal. 

On February 28, 1822, an act was passed "for lowering 
the Onondaga Lake, and draining the swamp and mkrsh 
lands in the town of Salina," to afford boat communication 
between that lake and Seneca river, which empties into the 
Oswego river, for the improvement of which latter river an 
appropriation had theretofore been made. 

On April 5, 1823, an act was passed authorizing the con- 
struction of a canal basin at Albany, and the same year the 
Niagara Canal Company was incorporated. 

On April 22, 1823, an act was passed directing the canal 
commissioners to cause "a survey to be made, by one of the 
engineers in their employ, of the Oswego river, from the 
head of the Falls to Lake Ontario, and to make a report of 
the same, and of the probable expense of completing the 
canal," to the next session of the Legislature. 

On April 2^, 1823, an act was passed "to incorporate the 
Oswego canal company," and the Canal Commissioners were 
authorized and empowered to enter upon the property of 
said company and "make all necessary alterations that by 
them shall be deemed advisable; to take and make use of 
the waters therefrom, for the use and purposes of filling 
and supplying all locks that may be constructed to connect 
the said canal with Lake Ontario; and the said canal shall 
thereafter become the property of this State, without any 
payment or compensation whatever to said company : Pro- 
vided however. That the right to all the surplus waters of 
said canal, shall be vested in the company hereby incorpor- 
ated, and all persons legally claiming under them ; and that 
they shall be permitted to take, make use of, and enjoy, the 
surplus waters of said canal, not necessary for filling or 
supplying the locks that may be erected by the said canal 
commissioners." * 

In their report in 1824, the Canal Commissioners, in 
speaking of the work between Schenectady and Albany, 

1. 2 N. Y. Canal Laws, 146, 147. 


"On this part of the canal are two stupendous aqueducts across 
the Mohawk, whose aggregate length, exclusive of the wings, is 
eighteen hundred and ninety-two feet. And although it was feared 
hv some, that they would not be able to resist the impetus of the ice 
and current, in the breaking up of the river, by winter freshets ; yet 
they have already been twice subjected to the hazard of such an oc- 
currence, without exhibiting the least appearance of injury or 
damage. . . . 

"Between Schenectady and Albany are 29 locks, including two at 
the side cut opposite the city of Troy, most of which were completed 
during the last season, and it is confidently believed that some of 
them, for beauty of materials, elegance of workmanship, and sym- 
metry of form, will compare with an}' locks in the world. . . . 

"The work on that part of the eastern section, which is confined 
within the narrow valley of the Mohawk, has been obstructed with a 
greater complication of difficulties than can be found in any part of 
the canal. . . . These shores are frequently intersected with 
steep gullies, which seem to have been excavated by mountain tor- 
rents. It was necessary sometimes to project the line along the face 
of steep banks, and in several places, upon the sides of ledges and 
cliffs. . . . Where the canal occupies the bed of the river, the 
outer side of the bank is surmounted by enormous slope walls to 
protect it from abrasion. 

"None but those who had examined the line previous to the com- 
mencement of the work; who had seen the rude and undulating sur- 
face which it traversed, the rocks which were to be blasted, the 
irregular ledges filled with chasms and fissures which were to form 
the sides and basis of a water-tight canal; the spongy swamps, and 
gravel beds, and quick-sands, which were to be made impervious to 
water; and in short, the huge masses of rough materials, which, with 
immense labor, were to be reduced to symmetry and form, can duly 
appreciate the effort which it has required to surmount these various 

On April 5, 1824, an act was passed "relative to the 
draining of the Cayuga marshes, and for other purposes," 
and it was made the duty of the Canal Commissioners, and 
they were directed 

"to examine into the condition of the Seneca valley from the Onon- 
daga outlet, or Jack's reef, to the Cayuga lake, and to take measure- 
ments, soundings and levels, with a view to reclaim the marshes, 
commonly called the Cayuga marshes; also, to ascertain the practi- 

.■-JUL-**.. ..... • ■ . ...... 



cability of draining and reclaiming the marshes adjoining the Seneca 
and Cayuga lakes, respectively; and, also, of examining into the 
condition of the works erected and constructed upon the Seneca 
outlet and to take levels and measure distances along or near the 
outlet, with a view to the improvement of the navigation from the 
Erie canal, at Montezuma, to the Seneca lake, at or near Geneva ; 
and that the said engineer be, and he is hereby required to report 
their proceedings with all convenient speed to the Legislature, setting 
forth what will be the most eligible mode, the probable expense, and 
the consequent advantages of the proposed improvements, and the 
effect such improvements would have on the Erie canal." l 

On April 10, 1824, the Canal Commissioners were "au- 
thorized and required to cause a survey to be made by one 
or more of the engineers in their employ, of the most prac- 
ticable route for a canal from the foot of sloop and 
schooner navigation of the river St. Lawrence, in the county 
of St. Lawrence, to Lake Champlain, together with esti- 
mates of the expense, as nearly as the same can be made, 
of constructing a canal between the places aforesaid"; and 
report to the Legislature at its next session." 

On April 12, 1824, the Canal Commissioners were directed 
"to cause Grand Island, in the Niagara river, to be surveyed 
and divided into lots not exceeding two hundred acres 
each," with a view of selling the same. 

In November, 1824, Mr. James Tallmadge of Dutchess 
county, offered a resolution in the Assembly, which was 
unanimously adopted by that body and then by the Senate, 
requiring the United States Senators and members of Con- 
gress from New York to use their utmost endeavors to pre- 
vent the exaction of tonnage duties on boats navigating the 
canals of this State, which was attempted under the act of 
Congress passed on February 18, 1793, providing for the 
enrollment of and imposition of tonnage duties on vessels 
in the coastwise trade of the United States. He supported 
his resolution in an able speech, in which he called attention 
to the fact that tonnage duties were not imposed on boat^ 
navigating in the Middlesex, James river or Dismal Swamp 

lb. 227. 

lb. 228. 


canals, and there Was no justice in imposing such burden 
upon the commerce of the New York canals. 

On November 26, 1824, an act was passed to connect the 
Erie canal with the waters of Lake Ontario ; and by an act 
passed on April 20, 1825, the commissioners of the canal 
fund were authorized to borrow $160,000, and to apply 
other revenues to the construction thereof, provided that 
the whole sum did not exceed $227,000, and it was to be 
known as the Oswego canal. It was 38 miles long and had 
18 locks 90 feet long and 15 wide and cost $565,437 and was 
completed on December 10, 1828. 

The preliminary survey for the Champlain canal was 
made by Col. Lewis Garin, who reported two places on the 
Hudson river whence a canal might be constructed to Lake 
Champlain. One of these was near the mouth of Moses 
Kill, and following the channel of that stream and Dead 
Creek reach the summit level, whence it was possible to 
reach the channel of Wood creek and proceed to White- 
hall ; the other point of departure from the Hudson was at 
the mouth of Fort Edward creek and the course was along 
the valley of that creek to the summit level, and thence 
down to Wood creek to Whitehall. This route, which was 
finally chosen, was originally proposed by General Philip 
Schuyler and the other commissioners appointed by chapter 
237 of the Laws of 1816, the same year that the Hudson 
and Mohawk Lock Navigation Company was incorporated 
with a capital stock of half a million dollars. In 1817 Mr. 
James Geddes re-examined the Champlain canal route and 
made a survey of the territory between Whitehall and Fort 
Edward. 1 

By the second section of an act, passed on April 7, 1819, 
the Canal Commissioners were authorized and empowered 
to proceed to open the navigation by canals and locks be- 
tween Fort Edward and the navigable waters of the Hudson 

The contract for the first section from Whitehall for five 
miles south was let to Messrs. Melancthon Wheeler and 
Ezra Smith in 18 17. Some difficulty was found in obtain- 

1. 1 N. Y. Canal Laws, 377. 


ing water for a summit level and it was proposed that a 
feeder might be brought from Lake George or from the 
Hudson river, and it was ascertained that one might easily 
be made from the Halfway brook, which was deemed to be 
the principal source of supply for the summit level. When 
the summit level was constructed in 1819, several springs 
were intercepted which supplied the water for the level 
without the construction of any other feeder. 

In the report of the Canal Commissioners to the Legis- 
lature, under date of February 18, 1820, they say: 

"During the last season the works on the Champlain Canal have 
been prosecuted with zeal and activity, by the several contractors to 
whom they were committed. The locks, the waste weirs, the culverts, 
and the remaining parts of the excavation and embankment, have 
been so far completed as to render the canal fit for navigation. On 
admitting the water in December last, it was ascertained that both 
levels are perfectly correct/' 

The engineers were troubled to devise a method of con- 
structing a feeder to the summit level in order to take water 
from Baker's falls, but a contract was finally entered into 
for the erection of a dam and excavation of a navigable 
feeder and the construction of a guard lock to prevent the 
irruption of the water into the river. 

By the provisions of section 3 of the act passed April 12, 
1820, entitled, "An act concerning the Erie and Champlain 
Canals," one-fourth of the moneys to be applied on the con- 
struction of the Erie and Champlain canals was appropriated 
towards the construction of the Champlain canal and the re- 
maining three-fourths to complete sections of the Erie. 

The original estimated cost of a canal between Lake 
Champlain and Waterford on the Hudson river was $871,- 
000. That was deemed sufficient to construct a canal 30 
feet wide at the surface, 20 feet at the bottom and' 3 feet 
in depth, with locks 75 feet long and 10 feet wide in the 
clear. Thereafter the dimensions of the Champlain canal 
were enlarged to conform to those of the Erie and the addi- 
tional cost was estimated to be an increase of one-third. 
However, the data upon which the estimates were made were 


^S«i**W '-W***-" 


insufficient, and as the work progressed it was evident that 
the cost of the Champlain canal would exceed the estimates. 

In 1 821, the Canal Commissioners reported that "the 
works on the Champlain canal have been vigorously prose- 
cuted during- the past season. About seventeen miles of ex- 
cavation, extending from Saratoga falls to within ten miles 
of the village of Waterford, have been nearly completed. 
The banks of the canal, on the above seventeen miles, have 
been formed and completed with a strength and beauty far 
surpassing any of the similar works which had previously 
been finished/' Credit is given therefor to the engineer, 
Mr. William Jerome, in charge of that section of the Cham- 
plain canal. 

It became necessary to construct a dam across the Hudson 
at the head of Fort Miller falls, which, aided by excavations, 
improved the bed of the river through" Crocker's and Pot- 
ter's reefs, and produced good boat navigation between! Fort 
Edward and Fort Miller. The Wood creek was so im- 
proved that it was made navigable, but the rapidity of the 
current and deficiency in the depth of water rendered it 
necessary to construct a dam and a lock in that stream. 

In this report they predicted that the Champlain canal 
would be completed the following year, so that vessels could 
pass from Lake Champlain to the Hudson river without de- 
lay. 1 In a later report the commissioners say that the dam, 
which had been constructed at Fort Edward, was injured 
by the freshet of 1821 and that Canvass White was directed 
to lay out a new feeder from the Hudson from above Glens 
Falls. This was found impracticable and it was decided to 
repair the dam at Fort Edward. 

The Champlain canal was opened to navigation and boats 
passed through it from Whitehall to Waterford in the fall 
of 1822. The cost of construction was $921,011, up to 1832, 
which included the cost of the canal from Fort Edward to 
the dam above Saratoga Falls. 

The Glens Falls feeder was authorized in 1822, completed 
in 1837, and cost $91,944. The amount of tolls collected 
during the short period of navigation in 1822 was $3,625.44. 

». 2 N. Y. Canal Laws, 19, 24. 


In their report, under date of April 3, 1823, it appeals 
that navigation for ten miles of the distance between Water- 
ford and Whitehall was in the channel of the Hudson river 
and for six miles in the channel of Wood creek, which was 
unsatisfactory and the commissioners say that ''some future 
legislature will doubtless furnish a more perfect and un- 
broken communication between Lake Champlain and the tide 
waters of the Hudson." 

In 1824 petitions of the inhabitants of the counties of 
Rensselaer, Saratoga, Washington, W'arren, Essex, Clinton 
and Franklin were presented to the Legislature in relation 
to the navigation to the northern canal from Fort Edward to 
Fort Miller, in which it was represented, "that experience 
has already fully demonstrated the fact, that by using the 
bed of the Hudson river, between Fort Edward and the 
Saratoga falls, as a substitute for canal navigation, trans- 
portation was at all times tedious and expensive, and dur- 
ing periods of floods and high winds, is wholly interrupted ; 
and," the petitioners assert, "that the expense of transpor- 
tation, between Lake Champlain and Troy, tire last season, 
has been greater on the short distance between Fort Edward 
and the Saratoga cut, than it has been upon the whole line 
of the canal, which embraces the residue of the distance." l 
It was asserted that "whatever may have been anticipated 
from the river navigation, between Fort Edward and Fort 
Miller it is now demonstrated, and put beyond the reach of 
contradiction, that it will not answer the purposes of a safe 
canal navigation." On April 7, 1824, the Senate adopted a 
resolution directing the Canal Commissioners to cause a 
careful survey and examination to be made of the eight 
miles between Fort Edward and Fort Miller and report on 
the estimate of the expense to the Legislature at its next 

On April 10, 1824, the Assembly passed the following 
resolution : 

"Resolved (if the Senate concur in hearing), That the canal com- 
missioners be, and they are hereby required to make such alteration 

1. lb. 181. 

•3& : i-- 


ahid improvements in the northern canal between Fort Edward and 
Fort Miller, as in their opinion is necessary, to make a fair and 
perfect canal navigation." 

The Senate concurred in this resolution on the same day. 
Thereafter doubt arose as to the power vested in the Canal 
Commissioners under that resolution and the matter was 
brought again before the Senate, which reported through 
Mr. Dudley, chairman of the committee on canals, that 
the purport of the resolution was to direct and authorize the 
Canal Commissioners "to continue the cut parallel to the 
river, about three miles below Fort Miller and thence across 
the Hudson by an aqueduct and which is stated to be de- 
sirable." x 

The joint committee on canals in relation to the exten- 
sion of the Champlain canal from Fort Edward to Fort 
Miller, made its report to the Senate on March 21, 1825, in 
which, after reciting the petitions in favor of such improve- 
ment and the conditions then existing in that part of the 
waterways complained of they said that "no reasonable doubt 
can be entertained as to the propriety, in reference to the 
interest of the State, of substituting a canal for that dis- 
tance," but they also recommended that the canal be extended 
to the pond above Saratoga dam, making the distance ten 
and a half miles. 

On April 20, 1825, an act was passed, known as chapter 
2jj of the Laws of 1825, authorizing the commissioners to 
construct a canal from Fort Edward to the dam above Sara- 
toga Falls at an expense not exceeding $170,000. By this 
act the commissioners were also authorized to construct a 
canal from the Black Rock harbor to Buffalo creek along 
the margin of the Black Rock basin. - 

In their report to the Legislature, under date of March 
4, 1825, the Canal Commissioners describe the progress 
made in building the Erie and Champlain canals, including 
the work on Buffalo creek, Black Rock, Brockport, the Cay- 
uga marshes, Utica, Oriskany, the Albany dam, the Glens 
Falls feeder, and at other intermediate points. The con- 

1. lb. 226, 227. 

2. lb. 408. 

' . 


struction of embankments atbng the hillsides, to hold the 
waters of the canal above the level of lands below, the build- 
ing of numerous bridges at various crossings, at first as low 
as to occasion complaint on the part of passengers in packet- 
boats, the construction of aqueducts across streams so as 
not to interfere with their free navigation by small crafts 
and rafts, the use of hydrostatic locks and the supply of 
adequate feeders for the canals, were problems to which the 
Commissioners addressed themselves and to which they 
gave much consideration. Their long practical experience 
in the work and knowledge of the conditions existing in the 
several sections of the canals, derived from personal inspec- 
tion and from the reports of the expert engineers, enabled 
them to solve successfully most of these, so that the canals 
were completed and in operation in October, 1825 ; but we 
of this later generation may never know what it cost those, 
charged with the responsibility of carrying forward the 
project, despite constantly besetting difficulties, to a suc- 
cessful consummation. 

In addition to the physical and engineering problems in- 
volved in constructing such a waterway through a new and 
extensive territory, party and political strife ran high and 
the canal project absorbed public attention, to such an ex- 
tent that it formed an issue in State affairs. On April 12, 
1824, a concealed and wholly unexpected attack was made 
in the Senate against De Witt Clinton, on the introduction 
of a resolution by Senator John Bowman of Rochester, to 
the effect that De Witt Clinton be removed from the office 
of Canal Commissioner, which position he had continuously 
held from April 17, 18 16. He had been the foremost advo- 
cate of the canal project from its very inception and was the 
acknowledged! exponent of the most intelligent sentiment of 
the people of the State on that subject ; but without warning 
or an opportunity to be heard, the Senate by the votes of 
21 senators to 3 against his removal and the Assembly by 
the votes of 64 assemblymen to 34 against such removal, 
precipitately decided to and did remove him from the office 
of Canal Commissioner on the day of the introduction of the 
resolution. This was characterized by William L. Stone 


;»s "S political fuse de guerre" 1 And still no words of 
complaint were uttered by Mr. Clinton. His interest in the 
project did not abate, but he continued to urge the prosecu- 
tion of the work and portrayed the future growth of this 
State, as a result of waterway transportation, in terms as 
eloquent as the finished periods of Cicero or William Pitt. 
Governor Clinton was an accomplished and gifted states- 
man. His numerous state papers on the canal question were 
the embodiment of lucid and substantial arguments, clothed 
in elegant and graceful diction, copious in illustration and 
glowing in realistic presentation of what, in the sweep of 
his vision, he pictured was to be. In their perusal one is 
reminded of the prophet in "Locksley Hall," who 

"... dipt into the future, far as human eye could see, 
Saw the vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be, 
Saw the heavens fill with commerce, argosies of magic sails, 
Pilots of the purple twilight, dropping down with costly bales." 

It is not to be wondered at that the people considered his 
removal from the office of Canal Commissioner a cruel out- 
rage to one of the greatest benefactors of the State, and that 
it was denounced in public meetings in various counties. 
The people were moved to the highest resentment and public 
indignation overwhelmed his enemies at the succeeding No- 
vember election, when Mr. Clinton was elected Governor, 
by a large majority, over Samuel Young, one of the Canal 
Commissioners then in office. This election wrought the dis- 
comfiture of the anti-canal forces and solidified canal senti- 
ment as nothing else had done since the passage of the 
Canal Act of 1817. 

Governor De Witt Clinton, in his message to the Legis- 
lature in 1S25, recommended the appointment of a board for 
the promotion of internal improvements, with a view of con- 
necting the waters of the St. Lawrence river with Lake 
Champlain and to unite "the waters of the Seneca, Cayuga 
and Canandaigua lakes, and such of the secondary lakes as 
may be deemed expedient, with the Erie canal, is also an ob- 
ject of importance. A connexion too is desirable between 

1. Hosack's Memoir of Clinton, <8j. 


the Delaware and the Hudson ; between the upper waters of 
the Allegany, Susquehannah and Genesee rivers ; between 
the Erie and Susquehannah, along the valley of the Che- 
nango river; between the Susquehannah and the Seneca 
lake; between the Erie canal at Buffalo and the Allegany 
river, at its confluence with the Conewango creek ; between 
Black river and the Erie canal; and between Gravesend 
Bay, Jamaica Bay, Great South Bay and Southampton Bay, 
and across Canoe place to Southhold Bay on Long Island. 
Other eligible communications might be indicated, but these 
are sufficient to evince the expediency of constituting a board 
with general powers in relation to internal improvements/' x 
In this communication he stated that 10,000 boats had passed 
the junction of the Erie and Champlain canals during the 
last season. The tone of the message was very optimistic 
as to the benefits likely to result from such an extensive sys- 
tem of internal waterways. Several of these were subse- 
quently constructed and are known as lateral canals, most 
of which have been abandoned. Some of them will un- 
doubtedly be reconstructed when the demands for cheap 
transportation are again presented, as they will be, by a 
population so dense that the facilities afforded by railways 
can no longer supply its necessities. 

In this message to the Legislature, Governor Clinton 
took a broad view of the whole subject of internal com- 
merce, even transcending the boundaries of our own State 
and discussing its effect upon the inhabitants of other states, 
and particularly those bordering on the Great Lakes and 
extending down the Ohio and Mississippi valleys. It was 
his belief that the revenue of canal traffic would pay the 
interest and extinguish the principal of the canal debt, which 
at that time amounted to $7,467,770.99. 

At that time the State of Ohio had in contemplation a 
project for uniting the Ohio river with Lake Erie, and on 
February 4, 1825, passed an act entitled "An act to provide 
for the internal improvement of the State of Ohio by navi- 
gable canals." The Ohio board of canal commissioners de- 
cided to inaugurate the opening of canal construction with 

1. 2 N. Y. Canal Laws, 233, 234. 


ceremonies on July 4, 1S25, on the Licking summit, to which 
Governor Clinton of New York was invited. He cast the 
first spadeful of dirt, and Governor Morris of Ohio, the 
second spadeful, in the presence of many thousands wit- 
nessing the ceremonies. 

Mr. Clinton was opposed to Federal regulation of traffic 
on the canals, and inveighed against the imputation that 
power to regulate commerce on the canals, which were ex- 
clusively the property of the people of the State, was given 
the United States Government under the commerce clause 
of the Constitution providing for the regulation of com- 
merce "with foreign nations and among the several states, 
or with the Indian tribes." 

Had a different interpretation of the Constitution pre- 
vailed and the United States Government assumed the 
jurisdiction to regulate commerce on the canals, undoubt- 
edly Congress might then have imposed such regulations as 
to deprive the State of the power to impose and collect tolls 
on canal traffic. The exercise of such power by Congress 
had wrought a loss of millions of dollars to the people of 
this State, if not its commercial paralysis. 

Mr. Clinton's message on this important question, is 
worthy of' a Webster or a Marshall. It fortunately was ac- 
cepted by the statesmen of that day and subsequent genera- 
tions as a sound exposition of the commerce clause of the 

During the session of the Legislature following the de- 
cision of the United States Supreme Court in the case of 
Perry versus Haines, 1 a resolution was introduced in the 
Senate, providing, in substance, that the State of New York 
through a duly constituted commission, apply to the War 
Department of the United States Government to ascertain 
the opinion of that Department in relation to the improve- 
ment of the Erie, Champlain and Oswego canals, as author- 
ized by the Referendum Act, known as Chapter 147 of the 
Laws of 1903, before proceeding with the improvement. 

I was a member of the Senate at the time and coming, 
unexpectedly as it did, shortly after the approval of the 

t. Reported in 101 U. S., pp. 17-55. 


Canal Referendum measure at the general election of 1903, 
and without any apparent warrant therefor by anything 
decided in the case of Perry versus Haines, the resolution 
was interpreted by canal advocates as another effort to fur- 
ther postpone canal improvement in this State, notwith- 
standing the express will of the people that it go forward. 
The assumption of admiralty jurisdiction over the waters of 
the Erie canal as over those of the Hudson river and other 
navigable waters of the United States, was not to be con- 
strued as an exercise of sovereign control of the waterways 
themselves, which were the property of the State, any more 
than the assumption of admiralty jurisdiction by English 
admiralty courts of maritime causes on the Bosphorus or 
high seas was an exercise of sovereign control by Great 
Britain over those waters. This argument was a complete 
answer to the purpose of the resolution which was rejected 
without reference to committee. Mr. Clinton's opinion as 
expressed in his message of 1825 has ever since prevailed in 
the councils of the State and nation, and as a result New 
York achieved its commercial supremacy over the other 
states of the Union. This illustrates the difficult problems 
that had to be settled by Mr. Clinton and others in the 
progress of canal construction. 

XIII. Engineering Problems — The Lateral Canals. 

There were 300 bridges between Utica and Albany and 
several hundred other bridges over the entire Erie canal. 
Some of these were so low as to occasion complaint from 
passengers on packet-boats. The settling of the banks of the 
canal in some instances reduced their height, so the matter 
of their elevation received consideration before the work 
was entirely completed. Portions of new work were dam- 
aged by freshets and by frosts, dams were carried away and 
banks injured on account of the porous character of the soil 
of which they were constructed. Repairs were necessary to 
keep the canal in operation. There were many culverts and 
they required watching and repairing from time to time. 


One of the most important engineering triumphs was 
that involved in the construction of the Irondequoit em- 
bankment, a mile or more in length, over the Irondequoit 
creek. When James Geddes originally explored the country 
and recommended the "interior route" from Lake Erie to 
the Hudson in 1808, he found it desirable in some manner 
to utilize the waters of the Genesee river as a feeder for 
the canal. The Irondequoit creek, whose waters were much 
lower than the waters of the Genesee river, intercepted the 
proposed line of the canal, and that necessitated the building 
of an aqueduct or other structure, through the valley and 
over the creek. To accomplish this result, when he made 
his survey in 18 1 6, he recommended an embankment 34 feet 
wide on the top and 229 feet wide on the bottom, and from 
40 to 70 feet in height to maintain a canal level to be fed 
by the waters of the Genesee river as far east as Mud creek. 
In speaking of this engineering project, in a letter addressed 
to William Darby, under date of February 22, 1822, James 
Geddes said : 

"In December of that year [1808] I left home . . . and after 
discovering at the west end of Palmyra that singular brook, which 
divides, running part to Oswego and part to the Irondequot bay, I 
levelled from this spot to the Genesee river, and to my great joy 
and surprise found the level of the river far elevated above the spot 
where the brooks parted, and no high land between. 

"But to make the Genesee river run down Mud creek, it must be 
got over the Irondequot valley. After levelling from my first line 
one-half mile up the valley, I found the place where the canal is now 
making across that stream at Mann's mills. . . . The passage of 
the Irondequot valley is on a surface not surpassed, perhaps in the 
world for singularity. No adequate idea can be conveyed without a 
map. Those ridges along the top of which the cana! is carried, are 
in many places of just sufficient height and width for its support, 
and for 75 chains the canal is held up, in part by them and in part 
by artificial ridges, between 40 and 50 feet above the general surface 
of the earth. . . . The arch through which the stream [Irondequoit 
creek] passes under this stupendous embankment is 26 feet span, 17 
feet high and 245 feet long, resting upon nearly 1,000 piles, some of 
them driven 20 feet. The surface of this wood foundation is just 
70 feet below the top water line of the canal. . . . While traversing 


these snowy hills in December, 1808, I little thought of ever seeing 
the Genesee waters crossing this valley on the embankment now 
constructing over it. I had, to be sure, lively presentiments, that 
time would bring about all I was planning, that boats would one 
day pass along on the tops of these fantastic ridges, that posterity 
would see and enjoy the sublime spectacle, but that for myself, I 
had been born many, many years too soon. There are those, sir, 
who can realize my feelings on such an occasion, and can forgive, 
if I felt disposed to exclaim 'Eureka,' on making this discovery. 

"How would the great Brindley, with all his characteristic anxiety 
to avoid lockage, have felt in such a case; all his cares at an end 
about water to lock up from the Genesee river, finding no locking up 
required. Boats to pass over these arid plains and along the tops of 
these high ridges, seemed then like idle tales to everyone around 
me. . . . The Irondequot embankment will, I think, receive the ad- 
miration of all visitors. I have seen, sir, the famous Harper's ferry 
on the Potomac, and if the Philosopher of Monticello could see, 
when finished, said embankment, I trust he would pronounce it a 
sight still more worthy across the Atlantic, than Harper's ferry." 1 

The achievement of James Geddes in this and other re- 
markable engineering projects entitles him to rank with such 
a canal engineer as James Brindley, who undertook and 
carried out by means of aqueducts over valleys and rivers 
the famous Bridgewater canal ; and who, when asked in 
an examination before the House of Commons, "For what 
purpose he considered rivers to have been created?'' replied, 
"To feed navigable canals." 

There were several other embankments on the Erie and 
Champlain canals, which carried the waters of the canals 
across intercepting streams. 

The Erie canal, when constructed, was 363 miles long 
and had 83 locks and its summit level was 688 feet above 
the level of the sea. The Champlain canal was 66 miles 
long and had 20 locks ; and the Glens Falls feeder and pond 
were 12 miles long and had 13 locks. 

The Canal Commissioners in their report for the year 
1818 say that "locks are the most difficult of all the works 
which will be necessary and their construction is already 
well understood in this State/' 

1. 1 N. Y. Canal Laws, 42-45. 


Nathan S. Roberts, who was appointed assistant engineer 
and who under Benjamin Wright, the principal engineer of 
the middle section, "conducted the operation of levelling and 
designating the canal line, as it was actually established most 
of the way from Salina to the Seneca river," 1 prepared 
plans for five double combined locks of 12 feet lift each, 
working side by side to overcome the 60 feet rise at Lock- 
port, and these plans were adopted in preference to those 
submitted by the other engineers. This was a great achieve- 
ment for Mr. Roberts, because the project was beset with 
many difficulties occasioned by the solid rock through which 
the canal and locks were constructed. 

The locks at Little Falls were under the supervision of 
Canvass White, who, it is said by the Canal Commissioners 
in their report in 1822, "by a judicious distribution of his 
locks, dropped his various levels on land giving suitable 
depth of cutting and requiring but little embankment," and 
thereby avoided damage by the annual floods of the Mo- 
hawk. 2 

The route of the canal through the Mohawk valley was 
the occasion of much solicitude on account of difficulties 
along the Mohawk. After the route had been laid out along 
the south bank of that river, the commissioners directed 
Benjamin Wright and James Geddes, the two senior en- 
gineers, together with Canvass W r hite, to survey lines on 
both sides of the river and report thereon. This survey was 
made and the engineers were of the opinion that it would 
be wise to construct the canal across and recross the river 
at certain places. This was to avoid the expense of rock- 
excavation and the construction of embankments. Between 
Little Falls and Schenectady there were 13 locks, 11 guard 
locks, 60 culverts, 13 aqueducts, 105 bridges and 6 dams, 
nearly all of which were of solid masonry. 3 

The construction of the locks at Cohoes Falls occasioned 
serious differences among engineers and the Canal Com- 
missioners, but the "sixteens," as they were popularly called, 

x. lb. 408. 

2. 2 N. Y. Canal Laws, 72. 

3- lb. 111. 


were constructed and formed a cascade quite as picturesque 
as the falls themselves. 

The dimensions of the original Erie and Champlain 
canals were as follows: The prisms were 40 feet wide at 
the surface, 26 feet wide at the bottom and 4 feet deep. 
The locks were 90 feet long and fifteen feet wide. The 
maximum size of boats navigating them was 78 62-100 feet 
long, 14 46-100 feet wide. They had a draft of 3^2 feet 
and could carry 75 tons, although nearly all built in 1825 
were of 35 to 45 tons capacity. 

Tolls were first levied and collected on July 1, 1820. In 
1821 the Canal Commissioners established rates of tolls, 
which ranged from five mills per ton per mile on salt and 
gypsum to one cent per ton per mile on flour, meal, all kinds 
of grain, salted provisions, pot and pearl ashes, two cents 
per ton per mile on merchandise, five mills per hundred 
feet per mile on lumber, five mills per ton per mile on brick, 
sand, limestone, iron ore and stone, five cents per mile on 
passenger boats and various other rates on other articles. 
During the first year that these prevailed, the aggregate 
tolls were $5,437-34. 

In 1825 the Joint Legislative Committee recommended 
that the Canal Commissioners be given power to increase 
the rate of tolls and to appoint collectors. The Canal Com- 
missioners had the management and control of the canals, 
subject to legislative approval, with ample powers to do 
whatever was necessary to promote their usefulness. 

After the rates of tolls first established had been in op- 
eration some time, it was found advantageous to the State 
to revise them and that was done from time to time until 
they were finally established by constitutional amendment in 
1882. The aggregate revenue therefrom on the Erie, Cham- 
plain, Oswego and other canals of the State was $134.- 
900,020.58, or more than the entire cost of all the canals of 
the State. 

The building of the Erie canal was a triumph in public 
improvements that had no parallel in this country. The 
Chesapeake and Ohio canal, first suggested by General 
Washington, had been partially constructed but not com- 


pleted. A commission had been appointed in 1825 to make 
surveys and estimates for the Pennsylvania canals; and 
the construction of the Ohio canals had been commenced 
the year the Erie was completed. Several smaller canals, 
however, had been built prior to or at that time, such as the 
Middlesex canal in Massachusetts, the Schuylkill canal in 
Pennsylvania and the LaChine canal in Canada. 

The completion of this undertaking, which to the men of 
that period appeared an extraordinary result, was the occa- 
sion of rejoicing from one end of the State to the other. 
They saw their hopes realized and their prophecies fulfilled. 
The long struggle against foes within and obstacles, that 
might have deterred men of less resolution than they, were 
overcome and all joined in a celebration that has no paral- 
lel in the annals of the State. Success was proclaimed from 
platform and from pulpit. The press voiced public senti- 
ment in encomium and panegyric. The voyage of the 
Seneca Chief from Buffalo to Sandy Hook was a continual 
ovation to Governor DeWitt Clinton and his compeers, who 
had wrought the union of the waters of Erie with those of 
the Hudson. It involved constructive genius of a high 
order, and its consummation presaged the ultimate com- 
mercial supremacy of New York over other states. 

Transportation over the Erie and Champlain canals soon 
became active, and packet boats carrying passengers, bag- 
gage and expressage made regular trips averaging one hun- 
dred miles a day. These were fitted with berths to accom- 
modate 30 or more passengers and were cleanly and com- 

The rate of fare was from 3 to 4 cents per mile including 
one-half cent toll per mile on each passenger. For nearly 
a quarter of a century these boats afforded the chief means 
of transportation from the Hudson to western New York, 
Pennsylvania and Ohio. 

As canal construction neared completion, petitions began 
to pour into the Legislature from various parts of the State, 
praying that power be conferred upon the Canal Commis- 
sioners and appropriations be made to construct canals from 
the trunk line canals to various outlying counties of the State. 


It was made evident that the Erie and Champlain canals 
were but the first in a series of great undertakings, which 
should intersect the larger portion of the State with water- 
ways connecting the various lakes and rivers, and form, 
altogether, a network of natural and artificial waterways 
from the Atlantic ocean, Long Island Sound and the Hud- 
son river on the east to the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence 
on the west. 

In a Joint Report of the Committee of the Senate and 
Assembly, on canals and internal improvements, made to 
the Legislature in 1825, there are enumerated 17 such peti- 
tions from the south tier, central, western, northern and 
eastern tiers of counties, which resulted in the introduction 
of many bills embodying the views and wishes of the various 

On April 20, 1825, the Legislature passed the Omnibus 
Canal Act known as Chapter 236 of the laws of 1825, au- 
thorizing the Canal Commissioners to cause examinations, 
surveys and estimates to be made 

"Of the most eligible routes for navigable communications in the 
following places, to-wit : from the Seneca lake to the Chemung 
river, at or near the village of Newtown; from Syracuse in Onon- 
daga county, to Port Watson in the county of Courtlancl, and also 
from Chenango Point up the valley of the Chenango river through 
the town of Norwich to the Erie canal ; from the Susquehannah river 
up the valley of the Unadilla to the Erie canal ; from Cayuga lake 
to the Susquehannah river, at or near the village of Owego; from 
the Erie canal in the county of Herkimer, to the upper waters of 
Black river, thence on the most eligible route to the river St. Law- 
rence, at or near Ogdensburgh; from the Erie canal, near the village 
of Rome in the county of Oneida, by the way of the Black river to 
Ogdensburgh; from Rochester to Allegany river at Olean, through 
the valley of Genesee river, from Scottsville by way of Le Roy, to 
the upper falls of the Genesee river; from the Champlain canal to 
the Vermont line, along the valley of the Battenkill, or by any other 
more eligible route; from lake Erie to Allegany river, through the 
valley of the Conawanga, and from the Allegany river at Olean to 
the Erie canal by way of the village of Batavia; from Portland, in 
Chautauque county, to the head of Chautauque lake; from the vil- 
lage of Rochester in the county of Monroe, to Lake Ontario; from 
Sharon, or near thereto, to the tide waters of the Hudson, at or be- 


low the mouth of Croton river, or to the city of New York between 
Gravcscnd bay, Jamaica bay, Great South bay. South Hampton bay, 
and across the canoe place to Southold bay on Long Island ; and 
from the village of Catskill on the Hudson river, along the valley 
of the Catskill and Schoharie creeks, to intersect the Erie canal west 
of Schoharie creek." 

The Commissioners were directed to report to the Legis- 
lature at the next session and they were authorized to decide 
upon the practicability of the above routes and not to survey 
such as they considered impracticable. 1 

In conformity with the petitions, the authority was con- 
ferred upon the Canal Commissioners in some instances to 
make preliminary surveys and report thereon to the Legis- 
lature. The joint committee on canals and internal improve- 
ments, March 5, 1825, reported favorably upon the petitions 
for a canal connecting the Erie with the Cayuga and Seneca 
lakes, and the Commissioners directed David Thomas to 
make a survey and a bill was framed to carry that recom- 
mendation into effect. 

The engineer, David Thomas, surveyed two routes from 
Seneca Falls to the Erie canal. The Canal Commissioners 
decided that the route by the Seneca lake outlet would 
afford accommodation to the largest number of people and 
adopted it. Some of the contracts were let in 1826, but 
most of the work was relet in 1827, and the work was com- 
pleted in 1828, so that boats passed from Seneca lake at 
Geneva to the Erie canal at Montezuma on November 15, 
1828. The length of the canal was 20 miles, and one-half 
the distance was through the natural channel of the Seneca 
outlet. The locks were 90 feet in length by 15 feet in 
width, and the prism at the surface of the water was 40 feet 
wide and at the bottom 28 feet, with a depth of 4 feet. The 
original appropriation for this canal was $150,000, made by 
Chapter 271 of the Laws of 1825, out of which all the 
right, title, interest and properties of the Seneca Lake Navi- 
gation Company were purchased at the sum of $33,867.18, 
of which latter sum $19,155.04 went to the general fund of 
the State for the stock of said company owned by the State. 

x. 2 N. Y. Canal Laws, 397, 39S. 


In 1827, a further sum of $45,000 was appropriated. 
The following year the Canal Commissioners were author- 
ized to construct a canal to East Cayuga, and the sum of 
$100,000 was appropriated therefor. That canal was 21 J/ 
miles long, had 11 locks 90 feet long by 15 feet wide, with 
a prism 40 feet wide at the surface and 4 feet deep. 

By Chapter 325, Laws of 1829, $8,000 was appropriated 
for the canal to East Cayuga and $24,000 for the Cayuga 
& Seneca canal. Considerable difficulty was experienced 
from the variation of the depth of water in Seneca lake, 
which occasioned some contention between residents at the 
head of Seneca lake and those in the villages at the foot and 
below the lake. The industries at Waterloo and Seneca 
Falls were affected by the height of water in Seneca lake 
and the people at the head of the lake were subject to floods 
and washouts w r hen the water was very high in Seneca lake. 
The Cayuga inlet falls into the head of Cayuga lake and 
at one time was navigable for the largest vessels on the 
Erie canal for a distance of two miles from its mouth. 
From time to time the Legislature has taken cognizance of 
its navigability and made appropriation to remove sandbars 
at its outlet and for the improvement of its channel. This 
afforded water transportation for the industries of Ithaca. 

In 1839, in response to petitions for the improvement of 
the Cayuga & Seneca canal, the Canal Board reached the 
conclusion that: "The peculiar connection of the Cayuga 
& Seneca canal with the Cayuga and Seneca lakes; the 
extent of the country thereby penetrated and reached ; a 
judicious regard to the union of lake and canal navigation 
which this case [presented], together with the kind of ves- 
sels best fitted for this twofold use, and a just and fair con- 
sideration of the extensive and growing interests of the 
large and increasing population, whose trade [would] nat- 
urally take this route," justify the enlargement of the canal 
to the full dimensions of the Erie, which was then under- 
going enlargement. 1 No action, however, was taken in the 
matter until 1840 when the commissioners were authorized 
by Chapter 302, "to improve the Cayuga and Seneca canal, 

N. Y. Assembly Docs., 1S39, No. 367, p. 1. 


by catting a channel through the bar at the northeast bend 
6f the Seneca lake to the said canal, and to regulate the 
height of the water of the lake and the outlet thereof, in 
such manner as in their opinion [should] be most conducive 
to the public interests/'' x For the work the sum of $12,000 
was appropriated. 

Chapter 114 of the Laws of 1842 "caused all work on 
the State canals to cease except as was necessary to pre- 
serve or secure navigation, until the adoption of the Consti- 
tution of 1846." That was known as a "Stop law," and 
was occasioned by the financial affairs of the State which 
were in a deplorable condition. 

Little was done until 1847, when the locks on these canals 
were to be made of the same dimensions as those on the 
Erie. In 1849, two enlarged composite locks were com- 
pleted 1 and brought into use at Waterloo. 

In 1850, five locks were completed and in 1851 the 
Seneca side lock was completed and two piers 350 and 400 
feet long at the Seneca outlet. 

Down to September 30, 1882, when tolls were abolished, 
there had been expended on the Cayuga inlet $2,020 in 
addition to payments from the General Fund, and for su- 
perintendence on the Cayuga & Seneca canal, for construc- 
tion and improvement, the sum of $1,834,184.40; and for 
superintendence and ordinary repairs the further sum of 
$1,027,538.57. The revenues derived from the Cayuga in- 
let were $8,837.02, and revenues derived from traffic on the 
Cayuga & Seneca canal amounted to $1,054,355.96, as 
stated by the auditor of the Canal Department in his report 
under date of January 9, 1883. 

The size of the locks was increased to no feet in length, 
18 feet in width, and a depth of 7 feet, which were the 
same dimensions as the locks on the enlarged Erie. The 
enlargement was completed in 1863, with the exception of 
locks which were rebuilt and enlarged subsequent thereto. 

The Crooked Lake canal connected Crooked lake with 
Seneca lake. Its construction was authorized on April n, 
1829. The work was commenced in 1830 and completed in 

I. N. Y. Laws, 1840, p. 248. 



1833 at an expense of $333,287.00. The canal was 8 miles 
long and after it was enlarged it had 2J locks, which were 
90 by 15 feet, and boats navigating it carried from 70 to 76 
tons. It was abandoned in June, 1877. 

The Chemung canal connected the waters of Seneca lake 
with the Chemung river at Elmira. Its construction was 
authorized on April 15, 1829, and it was completed in May, 
1833, at a cost of $314,395.51. It was 23 miles long and 
had 49 locks, which were 90 feet long by 15 feet wide and 
had a depth of 4 to ^/ 2 feet. Boats navigating that canal 
carried from 85 to 90 tons freight. It was abandoned in 
1878. I 

By this system of intersecting waterways the coal regions 
of Pennsylvania were brought into water communication 
with the cities, towns and villages of Western New York. 
A boat with a cargo of coal passed from Pennsylvania up 
the Chemung river into the Chemung canal, proceeded into 
Seneca lake and thence through the Seneca and Cayuga 
canal into the Erie canal. 

In 1869, there was upwards of half a million tons of 
freight carried over the Cayuga and Seneca canal and 
245,761 tons over the Chemung canal, and in the year 1863 
there was transported over the Chemung canal 307,151 
tons of freight; that included freight from Cayuga lake 
and the Cayuga inlet, as well as freight from Keuka lake 
through the Crooked Lake canal, down Seneca lake, and 
the freight passing through the Chemung canal into Seneca 
lake. Fleets of from 30 to 50 boats were seen in tow on 
Seneca lake at one time. The effect of this water transpor- 
tation upon the towns, cities and villages in touch with it 
may be judged by their rapid growth during the period of 
its greatest activity and in advance of railway transportation. 

As already stated, the new barge canal is within easy 
reach of these interior lakes whose commerce during the 
middle of the nineteenth cntury was extensive. It is only 
a matter of time when these interior lakes will be brought 
into complete communication with vessels navigating the 
new barge canals, for surveys have already been made for 
that purpose. 


One can hardly imagine a more delightful tour from the 
eastern or western portions of the State to the central por- 
tion of the State, up into these beautiful lakes which have 
played so important a part in the history of Western New 
York and which are surrounded by thriving villages and a 
prosperous and intelligent population. 

Shortly after the Erie and Champlain canals were com- 
pleted the traffic was so grest upon them that it became ap- 
parent that they were inadequate to meet the demands of 
the increasing commerce over them. Within 15 years after 
their completion several lateral canals were commenced 
and some of them completed. Sentiment throughout the 
State was strongly in favor of the extension of waterways 
to the outlying counties and the improvement of the exist- 
ing Erie canal to meet the increased traffic over it. 

In 1834, the Canal Commissioners submitted a special 
report to the Legislature in relation to the reconstruction of 
the aqueduct over the Genesee river, and providing an addi- 
tional feeder at Camillus on the Jordan level for the Erie 
canal. This report followed the message of Governor Wil- 
liam L. Marcy to the Legislature in 1834, in which, among 
other things, he said: "If our canals are to be what a wise 
management cannot fail to make them — the principal chan- 
nels for this trade — we must calculate its extent, and make 
them adequate to this object." % 

The Canal Commissioners first addressed themselves to 
the question of doubling the locks and employed Holmes 
Hutchinson to examine sites and furnish plans and esti- 
mates to accomplish that result. 

XIV. Enlargement and Reconstruction. 

On May 11, 1835, the Legislature authorized the first 
enlargement of the Erie canal, and the work was com- 
menced in 1836. The estimated cost of the enlargement was 
$23,402,863.02. It was not completed until September 1, 
1862, and cost $31,834,041.30. 

1. 1 "History of the Canal System ... of New York," 134. 



The plan of enlargement adopted in 1835 contemplated 
an increase in carrying capacity of boats from 75 to 175 
tons. The work of enlargement was protracted and costly, 
and resulted in the loss of commerce to the State. Railroads 
were released from the payment of tolls in 1851 and canal 
tolls were reduced in 1852 and 1858. The average cost of 
railway freight charges from i860 to 1865 was S4.42 per 
ton, and canal charges including tolls were $1.88 per ton. 
During this period the aggregate canal tonnage was 29,- 
895,121 tons. 

The direct loss to the State by the abolition of railway 
tolls was several millions annually and the indirect loss by 
the diversion of tonnage from the canals to the railways was 
large. The cost of transportation on the canals in 1853, 
including tolls, was one cent and one mill per ton per mile, 
and on the New York and Erie railroad two cents and four 
mills per ton per mile. 1 

The enlargement finally consummated increased the di- 
mensions of the prism so that it was 70 feet on the surface, 
from $2 l / 2 to 56 feet on the bottom and 7 feet deep. The 
number of locks was reduced to J2 lift locks and 3 guard 
locks, which were no feet long and 18 feet wide, built of 
stone, which admitted of the passage of boats carrying 240 

The revenue from tolls was so large during the decade 
after the completion of the Erie that extravagant notions 
were entertained as to their volume in the future. It was 
predicted that they would amount to a million dollars in 
1836 and four million in 1856, and would continue to in- 
crease in that proportion for half a century. Hitherto there 
had been no direct tax to carry forward canal construction 
in this State, and the Governor and State officials generally 
were opposed to raising revenues by direct taxation ; and 
still, large as the revenues were, it was evident that the ex- 
pense of the improvement could not be met without negoti- 
ating a loan or resorting to direct taxation on account of 
the enormous drain upon the canal fund in the construction 
of the various lateral canals. 

Report of the N. Y. State Engineer for 1853, p. 28. 


It was generally conceded, however, that the Erie canal 
must be enlarged to accommodate the traffic over it, which 
had far exceeded its capacity so that delays were constant 
and protracted and that was a serious impediment to the 
commerce of the State." 

It is interesting to note that in the arguments made dur- 
ing the campaign for canal enlargement, it was said that 
unless the State of New York provided adequate means for 
transportation other routes would secure the traffic and the 
states of Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia, and espe- 
cially the Dominion of Canada, were making strenuous 
exertions to divert the trade of this important region 
through their own territories and to their own markets, as 
expressed in a Memorial of the citizens of Utica to the 
Legislature in 1835. 

It was also stated that the doubling of the locks which 
had been authorized by the Legislature, was but a tem- 
porary relief. 1 

The Canal Commissioners selected John B. Jervis, 
Holmes Hutchinson and Frederick C. Mills, engineers of 
distinction, to investigate and report upon a plan for the 
enlargement of the Erie canal. They made their report to 
the Legislature in 1835, and thereupon the Canal Commis- 
sioners stated that: 

"The Canal Board entertain the opinion, that an enlargement of 
the Erie canal would be, in all respects, the best plan to accommo- 
date the transportation between the Hudson river and the western 
lakes. ... At the last session of the Legislature a law was passed, 
directing the Canal Commissioners to double the locks, from Albany 
to Syracuse. This measure will increase the capacity of the canal 
and accommodate the trade for a short period of time, but will not 
sensibly lessen the expense of transportation. It is, however, quite 
certain, that the time is not far distant when additional facilities 
will be necessary; and the Canal Board take this occasion to ex- 
press the opinion, that the enlargement of the Erie canal should be 
directed at the present session of the Legislature." 2 

Therefore Chapter 274 of the Laws of 1835 was passed 
authorizing the Canal Commissioners to enlarge the Erie 

1. 1 "History of the Canal System ... of New York," 43, 44. 

2. lb. 145. 


Tarral and to construct a double set of lift locks as soon as 
the Canal Board believed the public need required such 

This question involved expert engineering- talent and 
should take into consideration the question of locks, new 
aqueducts and additional sources of water supply. In addi- 
tion to the engineers already mentioned, Nathan S. Roberts 
was employed to make a survey from Fultonville to Frank- 
fort, John B. Jervis a survey from Albany to Fultonville, 
Frederick C. Mills from Frankfort to Lyons, and Holmes 
Hutchinson from Lyons to Buffalo. There were serious 
differences of opinion as to the size of the enlarged locks, 
the dimensions of the prism and the reconstruction of the 
aqueducts. The act authorizing the reconstruction did not 
permit the levying of taxes to carry forward the work, and 
restricted it to moneys constituting the Eric and Champlain 
canal fund. This was not sufficient to warrant the immedi- 
ate execution of the work; and in 1836 Governor Marcy 
again warned the Legislature against going forward with 
internal improvements on so extensive a scale without first 
having formulated a policy of financing the project which 
should involve provision for the payment of the interest as 
it accrued and the redemption of the principal at maturity. 
In his message he stated that "The treasury is entirely ex- 
hausted." x 

Many changes were proposed, some on the ground of 
economy, others made necessary by reason of the enlarged 
locks and prism, and the increase in the size of the aque- 
ducts. 2 

In the Constitutional Convention of 1846, the fiscal policy 
of the State was quite fully considered by the members of 
that convention, and more particularly by General James 
Tallmadge, the Hon. Charles P. Kirklarid, the Hon. Michael 
Hoffman, and others. 3 The results of their deliberations 
were embodied in article 7 of the Constitution of 1846, 

1. Message of the Governor, N. Y. Assembly Docs., 1836, pp. 9-13. 

2. These are very fully set forth in Whitford's "History of the Canal 
System of the State of New York," already cited. 

3. See Debates of the Constitutional Convention of 1846. 


which among other things in section 6 provided that: "The 
Legislature shall not sell, lease or otherwise dispose of any 
of the canals of the State, but they shall remain the property 
of the State and under its management forever." 

The article referred to is long and provides an elaborate 
scheme for financing the existing canal debts and for their 
payment by the operation of sinking funds and limiting the 
expenditures of canal revenues to waterways then under 

The first enlargement ended in 1862, when sweeping 
changes were made in administering canal affairs; and the 
Civil War for a time interfered with the progress of canal 
improvement in this State. It was at this time, it is said, 
that favoritism was shown in the letting of contracts for 
canal construction and that frauds were charged against 
what was denominated the "canal ring." It is openly stated 
that contractors organized to prevent competitive bidding, 
and the Canal Board was accused of being in collusion with 
the contractors. The committee of investigation found that 
there had been a waste of public funds in the letting of con- 
tracts, amounting to several millions of dollars, for work 
but half done or wholly unperformed; and that a special 
appropriation had been procured in the interest of favored 
contractors. Judge Lincoln, in his valuable "Constitutional 
History of New 7 York" says: "It had long been apparent 
that reform was needed in canal administration." * He adds 
that Gov. Seward in his message to the Legislature in 1839 
objected "to the powers exercised by the [canal] commis- 

The Constitutional Convention in 1867 undertook to 
reform the administration of canal affairs in this State by 
the abolition of the Board of Canal Commissioners and the 
creation of the office of Superintendent of Public Works; 
but its recommendations were not ratified by the people at 
the November election in 1869. It was reserved for the 
Constitutional Commission of 1872 to accomplish such con- 
stitutional changes as would accomplish the reforms, which 
were generally conceded as necessary. 

1. Lincoln's "Constitutional History of New York," II, 354-355. 


In Chapter 2JJ of the Laws of 1825, the Canal Commis- 
sioners were authorized to make alterations and improve- 
ments in the Champlain canal between Fort Edward and 
the dam above Saratoga falls on the Hudson river, provid- 
ing the expense should not exceed $170,000, and the com- 
missioners were inhibited from the construction of an 
aqueduct across the Hudson river. The contracts were let 
for the work in 1825 and completed in 1827. In 1829, three 
locks were rebuilt at Fort Anne. In 1833 a dam was built 
across the Mohawk river below Cohoes Falls. In 1834 
Holmes Hutchinson, an engineer, reported that it would 
cost $127,829.62 to reconstruct the Glens Falls feeder, re- 
placing the wooden structure with solid masonry, and put- 
ting the feeder in first class condition. 

In 1836, the Legislature, in passing chapter 453, author- 
ized the rebuilding of the Glens Falls feeder in conformity 
to the recommendations of Mr. Hutchinson. Twelve locks 
were rebuilt. They were 15 feet wide and 100 feet long, as 
provided by law. In 1840 it was decided to rebuild that 
portion of the canal which had been constructed through 
the channel of Wood creek, by constructing a permanent 
and durable slope wall, which was done for a distance of 
seven miles, at a cost of a thousand dollars per mile. 

In 1843 a pier was constructed at Whitehall, which was 
216 feet long, and extended into the lake 12 feet below the 
lower lock walls. 1 

The improvements and enlargement of the Champlain 
canal and the Glens Falls feeder were urged with so much 
insistency by those interested in that waterway, that they 
prevailed upon the Legislature in April, i860, to pass chap- 
ter 213 of the Laws of that year, authorizing the increase 
of the prism to five feet in depth and to a uniform width of 
35 feet on the bottom. The same act authorized the rebuild- 
ing of some of the locks and carried with it an appropria- 
tion of $170,000. The work was commenced in 1S61 and 
completed in 1862 — at about the time of the conclusion of 
the Treaty of Ghent and the treaty following that between 
Great Britain and the United States, whereby each Govern- 

1. See N. Y. Assembly Docs., 1844. 


merit was to maintain but one vessel on lakes Champlain 
and Ontario and but two vessels on the other Great Lakes. 
The conclusion of this treaty afforded a pretext for the ad- 
vocates of canal improvement to urge enlargement of the 
Erie, Oswego and Champlain canals, with locks adequate 
for the passage of gunboats for the protection of the 
Northern and Western lakes. Thereafter a survey was 
made and the Legislature passed an act authorizing the con- 
struction of locks 150 feet in length and 25 feet in width, 
providing the Federal Government would bear the expense 
of such improvement, which it was unable to do on account 
of its depleted treasury. 

In April, 1864, the sum of $295,000 was appropriated to 
be expended on both the Champlain canal and the Glens 
Falls feeder, to make them 35 feet wide at the bottom of the 
prism, which was to be live feet in depth. Several locks 
were enlarged in that canal. In 1866 it was found that the 
funds were insufficient therefor and a further sum of $247,- 
500 was appropriated. 

The Champlain canal was subject to washouts, due to 
freshets in streams intersecting it, and in the month of 
April, 1868, a large portion of the Saratoga dam was 
carried away, which was repaired during the following 

In October, 1868, a series of breaks occurred in the 
berme bank of the canal which were attributed to a hole 
made through the bank by a muskrat. The Canal Commis- 
sioners say in their report for 1869: "Within the past ten 
years several breaks from the same cause have occurred at 
this place and it would be well to remedy this either by put- 
ting in the center of the bank for its whole length, a course 
of sheet piling, or a light concrete wall extending from top 
of bank down two or three feet." 1 

In i860, the Legislature authorized the enlargement of 
the prism so that it would measure 50 feet on the surface, 
35 feet at the bottom, and have a depth of five feet of 
water. This enlargement was necessary to accommodate 
the enlarged vessels navigating Lake Champlain and the 

1. Annual Report, N. Y. Canal Commissioners, 1869, p. 15. 


Hudson river. The prism was too narrow to admit of the 
passage of such vessels, and they were subject to prolonged 
delays at the various turn-out stations. 

In 1864, the further sum of $295,000 was appropriated 
to be expended in carrying forward the improvement begun 
in i860, and a further appropriation was made in 1866 of 
$247,500. During the following year, 1867, improvements 
were made at Fort Miller, Fort Anne and at other places 
along the line of the canal. The tonnage in the year 1868, 
through the increased size of the prism, was 1,120,585 tons; 
and in 1890 it reached its maximum of 1,520,757 tons. 

I derived my first practical experience in canal naviga- 
tion on the Champlain canal in 1868. At that time it was 
not uncommon to see 40 boats in line for passage through 
the various locks on that canal, and their carrying capacity 
was from 120 to 140 tons ; whereas the carrying capacity 
of vessels navigating the Erie, with a prism of seven feet 
deep, was 220 tons. Those were lively days on both the 
Champlain and Erie canals. As the boats assembled below 
Waterford they were taken in tow by river steamers to 
New York in flotillas of 40 or more each. 

The tonnage on the Champlain canal has been large and 
yielded a revenue to the State in tolls of $6,416,341.37. The 
cost of the collection of tolls, superintendence and repairs 
of the Champlain canal was $5,630,023.39, and the cost of 
construction and improvements was $4,913,295.79. These 
aggregate figures are down to September 30, 1882, as 
shown by the State Auditor's report for that year, when 
tolls were abolished. 

In 1870 the State Engineer and Surveyor estimated the 
cost of the enlargement to conform to the dimensions of the 
Erie at $3,200,000. Aside from the original cost of con- 
struction, appropriations for improvements on the Cham- 
plain had been much smaller, proportionately, than upon the 
Erie, although the traffic on the Champlain canal had been 
as much proportionately as had been the traffic over the 

The enlargement and improvement of the Champlain 
canal contemplated in 1870 was undertaken by the letting 


of several contracts in 1872, which were partially per- 
formed, when the appropriation therefor was exhausted and 
nothing more was appropriated until the year 1874, when 
the further sum of $500,000 was made available in the 
spring of 1875. Under that appropriation, owing to the dis- 
position of the people in various portions of the State, and 
by the passage of a law in 1876, modifying the plans of the 
proposed enlargement, the depth of water in the prism was 
to be only six feet, and the larger part of the money was 
expended in putting the locks, bridges, and other structures 
in good repair, and in the removal of coffer-dams and old 
structures from the channel, but a uniform depth of six 
feet of water was not secured. Efforts were made subse- 
quently to carry forward this improvement of widening the 
canal so as to obtain a width of 44 feet on the bottom and a 
uniform depth of six feet, but such improvement was com- 
pleted to the extent of 20 miles only out of the whole 66 
miles, down to the year 1890. The work was done in sec- 
tions and not continuous. 

A further improvement was contemplated and partially 
made under the nine million dollar appropriation authorized 
in 1895, for the improvement of the Erie, Champlain and 
Oswego canals. The plan of that enlargement included the 
straightening of the alignment, the enlargement of the 
prism by increasing its width and giving it a uniform depth 
of seven feet. The enlargement of the locks was never car- 
ried to completion, owing to the inadequacy of the nine 
million dollar appropriation to complete the enlargement 
authorized by the referendum measure of 1895. 

Various locks and dams along the Champlain canal were 
repaired and reconstructed and enlarged from time to time, 
but the dimensions of the prism were not increased in size 
equal to those of the enlarged Erie, but the prism and locks 
of the Champlain barge canal have the same dimensions as 
those of the Erie and Oswego canals. 

The construction of the Oswego canal was authorized by 
an act passed on April io, 1820, and work commenced that 
year. The canal was completed December 10, 1828, at a 
cost of $465,437.35. It was 38 miles long and the size of 


the prism was 40 feet at the surface; at the bottom 26 feet, 
and 4 feet deep. The locks were 90 feet by 15 feet in 
width. The tonnage of boats was from 50 to 75 tons. On 
May 12, 1847, an act was P ass ed authorizing the enlarge- 
ment of the locks on the Oswego canal, and on July 10, 
1851, an act was passed authorizing the enlargement of the 
canal prism and work was commenced thereon in 1852. The 
enlargement was completed on September 1, .1862, at an 
expense of $2,511,992.22. The width of the prism was 70 
feet at the surface, 52^2 feet at the bottom, and 7 feet deep. 
The enlarged locks were no feet long by 18 feet wide, and 
the boats carried from 210 to 240 tons. 

The Oswego canal is to be further enlarged under the 
referendum measure of 1903, so that its prism and locks 
will be of the same dimensions as those of the Erie and 
Champlain canals. 

The Oswego canal carried 1,080,076 tons in the year 
i860, which was its largest tonnage for any one year. 

The aggregate tolls derived from the Oswego canal 
amounted to $3,708,547.74 and the cost of collection of such 
tolls and the superintendence and ordinary repairs on the 
Oswego canal, down to September 30, 1882, amounted to 
$3,371,446.14. The cost of construction and improvements 
was $4,295,372.56. 

The Oneida Lake Canal Company was incorporated in 
1832 with a capital stock of $40,000. The company was 
authorized to construct and maintain a canal for 50 years 
and to impose tolls not exceeding three times those imposed 
upon the Erie canal. The State reserved the right to take 
possession of the canal upon payment to the stockholders of 
the cost of the canal with 10 per cent, interest thereon any 
time within ten years. 

The canal was completed on September 12, 1835, at a 
cost of $78,829. It was 6 J / 2 miles long and the feeder 3 
miles, and the dimensions of the prism were 40 feet at the 
surface of the water, 26 feet at the bottom and 4 feet deep. 
The feeder had a bottom width of 12 feet. The locks were 
uniform with those of the Erie, Champlain and Oswego 
canals and the vessels carried from 70 to 76 tons. Of its 


total length two miles thereof was the canalization of the 
Wood creek, which had played so important a part in the 
commercial history of the State. Some years afterward, 
Fish creek was made navigable. 

By an act of the Legislature, passed in May, 1867, the 
new Oneida Lake canal was authorized and the construc- 
tion completed in September, 1877, at a cost of $444,155.64. 
It was 5 3-10 miles long and its prism measured on the sur- 
face of the water 70 feet, at the bottom 47^ feet and had 
a depth of 7 feet. It had 6 locks which were no feet long- 
by 18 feet wide, built of stone and timber, and the vessels 
•carried 220 tons. It was abandoned in 1887. 

Wood creek, Oneida lake and the Oneida river form a 
part of the barge canal now being constructed, and the 
improvements at either end of Oneida lake are nearing 

The largest tonnage was 59,451 tons in the year 1849. 
The total revenues derived from the Oneida Lake canal 
aggregated $65,893.76. The cost of the collection of tolls, 
superintendence and repairs aggregated $144,060.60, and 
the cost of the construction and improvements of the 
Oneida Lake canal was $511,649.36. 

The Chenango canal was authorized on February 23, 
1833, and the work commenced the following year, and the 
construction completed in October, 1836, at a cost of 
$2,782,124. It was 97 miles long. The size of the prism 
was 42 feet at the surface of the water, 26 feet at the bot- 
tom, and 4 feet deep. It had 116 lift locks, 90 feet long 
and 15 feet wide, admitting of the passage of boats carry- 
ing from 50 to 70 tons. Its extension was authorized in 
April, 1863, and the work commenced in 1865, but never 
completed although there was expended $1,600,889.19. The 
cost of the work, however, so far exceeded the estimates 
that it was never completed. The Chenango canal extended 
from Utica to Binghamton. Its maximum tonnage was 
112,455 tons m 1868. The total revenues derived from the 
Chenango canal amounted to $744,027.11. The cost of the 
collection of tolls and the cost of superintendence and re- 
pairs on that canal amounted to $2,081,738.85. The loss in 


operating- it was $1,337,711.74. Cost of construction and 
improvements thereon was $4,789,470.58. 

The Oneicla river improvement was authorized on April 
29, 1839, and completed in 1850 at a cost of $79,346.44. It 
was 19 miles long and the channel was 80 feet wide at the 
surface, 60 feet wide at the bottom and 4^2 feet deep. The 
locks were 120 feet long by 30^2 feet wide and 6 l / 2 feet 
deep. The aggregate revenues derived from the Oneida 
river improvement was $217,100.36. The cost of the col- 
lection thereof, superintendence and repairs amounted to 
$41,140.47. There was a profit in operating that waterway 
of $175,920.80. The cost of construction and improve- 
ments, down to 1882, $224,072.33. 

The construction 01 the Black river canal was author- 
ized on April 19, 1836, and completed in 1849, at a cost °f 
$3,234,779. This canal leaves the Erie canal at Rome, 
passes up the valley of the Mohawk and Lansing Kill to 
Boonville, a distance of 25 miles ; thence to Black river and 
unites with the same below High Falls, 10^/3 miles from 
Boonville, and thence proceeds along the river to Carthage, 
a distance of 42 miles. It had a prism with its surface 42 
feet, bottom 28 feet wide, and 4 feet deep. Its locks were 90 
feet lon°: and 1=; feet wide, built of stone, and admitted of 
the passage of boats carrying from 45 to 50 tons. 

The Black river feeder was authorized on April 19, 
1836; completed in October, 1848, at a cost of $253,437.52, 
and extended from Boonville to Williamsville. The length 
of the improvement was 10^4 miles, with a prism 46 feet 
at the surface, 30 feet at bottom and 4 feet deep. 1 It had 
one lock 90 feet long, 15 feet wdde, built of stone, and ad- 
mitted of vessels carrying 70 to y6 tons. 

The Black river improvement was also authorized on 
April 19, 1836. A contract for the improvement from 
Lyons Falls to Carthage, a distance of 42^ miles, was let 
in 1851, but abandoned in consequence of a decision of the 
Court of Appeals; was relet in 1853, an d again abandoned 
by the Canal Board in 1854. A portion of it was relet in 
December, 1854, for a distance of eight miles. The latter 

x. Annual Report, N. Y. Canal Commissioners, 1S52. 


contract provided for clearing- the river from Lyons Falls 
to Carthage, to enable the floating of lumber from Lyons 
Falls down the river to market; the extensive lumber in- 
terests along the Black river having intrenched upon its 
navigability and utilized its waters for power purposes. 1 It 
was not completed until 1861 at a cost of $108,699.43, and 
included the waterway 42*^ miles long, with a prism 60 
feet wide at the surface, 40 feet wide at the bottom, and 5 
feet deep. It had two lift locks 160 feet long by 30 feet 
wide, built of wood. 

The Black river canal, the Black river improvement, the 
Boonville feeder and the Moose river improvement above 
Lyons Falls and other intersecting navigable streams, con- 
stituted an aggregate navigable mileage of 93^4 miles and 
yielded a revenue down to September 30, 1882, of $301,- 
098.63. They cost the State for the collection of tolls, su- 
perintendence and ordinary repairs, the sum of $1,552,- 
229.96, in addition to the cost of construction and improve- 
ments, which aggregated $3,894,952.39. 

The greatest tonnage carried on the Black river canal 
was 143,561 tons in the year 1889. The traffic extended 
from Central New York northwesterly up to the waters of 
the Black river and down that stream into Lake Ontario, 
and brought the commerce of that territory immediately 
into touch with that of Central and Eastern New York. 
Although difficulties have arisen from time to time between 
the owners of mill privileges along the Black river and the 
State officials with reference to the diversion of the waters 
of that stream, some of which have been carried into the 
courts, still it is generally conceded that the canal served a 
most important function in the early development of that 
portion of the State by bringing its cities, towns and villages 
within easy water communication with the metropolis. 

There were presented to the Legislature, on April 20, 
1825, petitions from the counties in the Genesee valley, 
requesting the Canal Commissioners to cause examinations, 
estimates and surveys to be made of the most eligible routes 
from "Rochester to Allegheny river at Olean, through the 

1. Annual Report, N. Y. Canal Commissioners, 1855. 


valley of the Genesee river; from Seottsville, by the way 
of Le Roy, to the upper falls of the Genesee river ; . . . 
from Lake Erie to Allegheny river, through the valley of 
the Conewongo, and from the Allegheny river at Olean to 
the Erie canal by way of the village of Batavia." 1 

This was one of seventeen separate canals for which 
surveys were authorized to be made by the act of 1825. 

In 1S27, a company was incorporated "to improve the 
navigation of the Cassedaga and Conewango creeks and 
the Chautauqua outlet," but the company accomplished 

In 1S30 the Genesee Valley route was authorized and 
residents in other counties and the city of New York joined 
in a petition to the Legislature, requesting the enactment 
of "necessary legislation for the opening of intercourse 
with Pittsburg and the inexhaustible beds of bituminous 
coal of western Pennsylvania by means of the canal system 
of the State." 2 

The canal committee recommended a minute survey of 
the Genesee valley and on April 30, 1834, an act was passed 
authorizing the same and for a "side-cut from the village 
of Dansville down the Canaseraga creek to the Genesee 
valley line at or near Mount Morris." 3 Great difficulties 
were encountered in the route and it w T as at first considered 
necessary to construct a tunnel a thousand feet or more 
through a cliff of rock, but the work did not proceed. Many 
petitions were presented to the Legislature in the year 1835- 
36, and as a result chapter 257 of the Laws of 1836, was 
enacted authorizing the construction of the Genesee Valley 
canal, "from the Erie canal in the city of Rochester, through 
the valley of the Genesee river, to a point at or near Mount 
Morris; and from thence, by the*most eligible route, to the 
Allegheny river, at or near Olean ; and also a branch of the 
same, commencing at or near Mount Morris, and extending 
up the valley of the Canaseraga creek, at or near the village 
of Dansville." If the Canal Commissioners were of the 

1. Laws of New York for 1825, ch. 236. 

2. 1 "History of the Canal System ... of New York," 710, 711. 

3. lb. 711. 


opinion, however, that the construction of the said canal 
would injure the hydraulic privileges at Rochester, then 
they were required to connect the said canal with the 
Genesee river, above the feeder dam above Rochester, and 
from thence to construct a navigable canal to the Erie canal, 
or improve the Erie feeder from that place, as might best 
promote the public interest. The act further provided that 
"the Canal Commissioners shall determine on the width 
and depth of the said canal and branch . . . and shall 
borrow, on the credit of the State . . . such sum or 
sums of money as shall be required for the same, as they 
shall deem best for the interest of the State, not exceeding 
two millions of dollars. " 1 

The Genesee Valley canal was authorized on May 6, 
1836, and completed to Olean in 1857, at a cost of $5,- 
827,813. Its length was 120A tniles. The size of the 
prism was 42 feet at the surface, 26 feet at the bottom and 4 
feet deep. It had 112 lift locks, 90 feet long and 15 feet 
wide; 2 guard locks built of stone, v/ood and concrete, and 
admitted of vessels carrying from 70 to j6 tons. Its 
greatest tonnage was 158,942 tons transported in the year 
1854. The total revenues received from the operation of the 
Genesee Valley canal down to September 30, 1882, amounted 
to $860,164.78. The cost of collection of the tolls, superin- 
tendence and repairs on that canal aggregated $2,814,- 
808.67, producing a loss of $1,954,643.89. The cost of con- 
struction and improvements aggregate the sum of $6,737,- 

This canal was to be constructed through one of the most 
picturesque valleys of the State, within which is located the 
beautiful Letchworth Park, given to the State by Hon. 
William P. Letchworth, and accepted pursuant to Chapter 1 
of the Laws of 1907. During the building of said canal it 
became necessary to construct the Portage tunnel, which is 
1082 feet in length, which was abandoned, and a new con- 
tract let for an "open cut" in place of the tunnel, a saving 
of many thousand dollars to the State. 

1. lb. 712. 


In the spring of 1841, 36 miles of the canal were com- 
pleted. The entire canal was completed in 1862 and shortly 
after navigation was opened throughout its entire length. 

The matter of the abandonment of the lateral canals was 
beginning to receive consideration and at the fall election 
of 1874 the State Constitution was so amended as to permit 
the Legislature to sell, lease, or otherwise dispose of any 
canals in the State except the Erie, Champlain, Oswego, 
and the Cayuga & Seneca canals. This was undoubtedly 
proposed at the instance of rival railways, which were in 
competition with the waterways of the State, and unfor- 
tunately public sentiment was not on the alert to prevent the 
abandonment of several lateral canals. 

In 1866 there were 439 locks on the so-called lateral 
canals of the State, most of which were wooden structures, 
and shortly after their construction began to show evidences 
of decay and the necessity of extensive repairs. This was 
the principal difficulty in the construction of the Western 
Inland Lock Navigation Company. Wherever wooden 
structures were used, it was not long before repairs thereto, 
or the rebuilding thereof, were necessary to keep the canals 
in operation. This entailed upon the State, from time to 
time, a large expenditure of moneys that would have been 
obviated had substantial structures been provided originally 
in the construction of the State waterways. The estimated 
cost of rebuilding the locks on the Chenango, Genesee Val- 
ley, Crooked Lake and Oneida Lake canals in 1866 was 

$2,3IO,000. 1 

XV. "Canal Frauds" and Investigations. 

The annual reports of the State officials charged with the 
responsibility of canal supervision, contain detailed state- 
ments of moneys expended for ordinary and extraordinary 
repairs, and estimates for further improvements along the 
lines of the several canals then in operation. 

This gave rise to serious complaints on the part of rival 
political parties and assumed such proportions that they 

1. State Auditor's Report for 1866, p. 81. 


were denominated by parties not in power as "canal frauds," 
which are considered in this connection. 

We have already stated that charges of fraud were made 
against some of the early contractors and other charges 
were made against later contractors from time to time and 
against officials charged with the responsibility of letting 
and supervising canal contracts. Matters assumed so grave 
a condition in the year 1846 that it led to the appointment 
of a commission, consisting of Sidney Lawrence, L. S. 
Yiele, George T. Pierce, Andrew' G. Chatfield and John T. 
Bush. This commission made its investigation in the year 
1846 and travelled over the Erie and other canals taking 
testimony. Scores of witnesses were examined and the 
testimony fills 1200 printed pages and is knowm as Docu- 
ment 100 of the Assembly of 1846. The investigation was 
conducted in a judicial manner and revealed many flagrant 
abuses of public trust and attempted fraud, but the Com- 
mission presented no specific charges against individuals 
which were grave enough to warrant indictment. 

It is impossible in a review like the present to enter into 
a discussion of all the matters involved in such an investi- 
gation. Human nature is the same the world over and 
many evidences of fraud have been disclosed from time to 
time in canal construction in the State, and especially so in 
the construction of the Genesee Valley canal and in the 
construction of the new channel in the Black Rock Har- 
bor under the improvement authorized in the year 1835, 
which it was claimed did not include new w r ork of that 

The Black Rock Harbor was begun a few days before 
the great storm of October 18, 1844, which brought with it 
the greatest flood in the history of Buffalo and submerged 
the lower part of the city and carried aw r ay 210 feet of the 
r 5ird Island Pier. It was claimed that the commissioners 
tacitly permitted the Superintendent of the Western Divi- 
sion to repair the breach in the pier without authority and 
that more than $17,000 w r ere expended before the work was 
stopped; but no prosecution followed. The commission 
found that there had been a squandering of public funds in 


the construction of the locks at Lockport through collusion 
of the Superintendent and contractors. This investigation 
had a salutary effect on the public mind and served as a 
check against future collusion between ofticials and con- 

In 1852, resolutions were introduced in the Senate and 
Assembly authorizing the appointment of committees to 
inquire into and report in regard to grounds for investi- 
gating into alleged frauds in the letting of canal contracts. 
This gave rise to a spirited discussion on the part of mem- 
bers from various parts of the State, and especially on the 
part of Hon. Israel T. Hatch, of Erie County, who, among 
other things, said : "Good faith, common honesty, and 
public duty, all required that the work should be let and 
prosecuted with integrity and for the best interests of the 
State. Whether it has been done so or not, is the question 
on which investigation and enquiry are now demanded/' An 
investigation did not immediately follow, but this opinion 
has been generally entertained ever since by all true friends 
of the canals. 

In 1 87 1 the Legislature had under consideration the 
matter of abolishing the office of the Superintendent of 
Repairs and conferring his duties upon the commissioners. 
On that occasion the Hon. James Wood addressed the 
Senate. In his remarks he said that the system of keeping 
the canals in repair was "not the measure of any political 
party, but was the result of the efforts of both," and, he 
added, "of all parties." 

In 1873 the State Treasurer, the Hon. Thomas Raines, 
appeared before the Canal Committee of the Assembly and 
called in question the unlawfulness of certain expenditures 
that had been made by them for repairs and structural work 
which were the subject of investigation in the Legislature. 
There had been such mismanagement in canal affairs that 
State officials in any way identified with their administra- 
tion became involved and were desirous of exculpating 
themselves from unjust accusations and took occasion when 
before legislative and other committees to lay before them 
their views. 


Complaints were made of extravagance in canal expen- 
ditures, and an effort was made to reform the administra- 
tion by a change in the system, which was not accomplished 
until the Constitutional amendment proposed in 1875 and 
approved in 1876, abolishing the office of Canal Commis- 
sioner and creating the office of Superintendent of Public 
Works. This was a result of the important investigation 
conducted by the Tilden Commission in 1875. This com- 
mission revealed extravagance and a squandering of public 
funds through the connivance of contractors and officials in 
their failure to comply with the requirements of the law. 
Thaddeus C. Davis, a canal appraiser, was indicted for 
conspiracy to defraud the State. Alexander Bafkley, a 
canal commissioner, and four section or division superin- 
tendents, were also indicted; and Francis S. Thayer, audi- 
tor of the Canal Department, was suspended from office for 
unlawful traffic in canal certificates and other branches of 
public trust. The report was laid before the Legislature 
of 1876 and was followed by a proposed amendment to the 
Constitution, which abolished the office of Canal Commis- 
sioners and created the office of the Superintendent of 
Public Works, to be appointed by the Governor. The 
amendment was approved at the general election of that 
year. Other investigations were made from time to time 
for the purpose of discovering suspected frauds and in the 
hope of remedying abuses in the administration of canal 
affairs. In 1881 a legislative committee made inquiry into 
terminal charges which were alleged to be excessive, and 
into the system of insurance rebates in operation, commonly 
known as scalping. Still later an Assembly Committee was 
authorized in 1891 to inquire into canal affairs for eleven 
years prior thereto and reported in February, 1892, that it 
did not find any misappropriations of public moneys and 
wholly exonerated those in charge of canal affairs. 

The most important investigation in recent years was 
that authorized by an act passed in 1898, whereby Governor 
Frank S. Black appointed a commission, of which the Hon. 
George Clinton was chairman. There were associated with 
him six other commissioners, and they were aided in their 


investigations, which continued for several months, by the 
Hon. Abel E. Blackmar, their counsel. Mr. Clinton for 
many years had been and is still recognized as the ablest 
and foremost advocate of canal improvement in the State, 
and Mr. Blackmar has distinguished himself as counsel in 
drafting many of the most important constitutional and 
statutory canal measures. Mr. Clinton's long familiarity 
with canal affairs in this State enabled him to conduct a 
judicial investigation into the various allegations of fraudu- 
lent expenditures of moneys under the nine million dollar 
Referendum measure. The commission made a most 
searching investigation into contracts, prosecution of the 
work and other phases of the nine million dollar improve- 
ment. In their report they criticised the State Engineer 
and Surveyor and the Superintendent of Public Works, and 
found that the appropriation was inadequate for the com- 
pletion of the work in accordance with the plans adopted for 
its prosecution. They found that there had been extrava- 
gance and improper certification in some instances of quan- 
tities and character of material excavated, but that the work 
in the main had been well done and no frauds of the char- 
acter of those disclosed in prior investigations were dis- 
covered, involving officials and contractors. 

The Clinton Commission recommended a continuation of 
the work after all the conditions had been thoroughly 
studied and the cost of completion was definitely ascer- 
tained. The report contained the important statement that 
"the entire cost of construction, enlargement and mainten- 
ance of the canal up to 18S5, was $102,345,123, while the 
total tolls received were $134,648,900, to which could be 
added the enormous aggregate representing their indirect 
influence on the prosperity of the State." This report was 
referred by Governor Theodore Roosevelt to Judge Edwin 
Countryman of Albany to determine whether or not civil 
or criminal proceedings ought to be instituted against any 
State official and the referee found adversely thereto. In 
framing the canal Referendum of 1903, which was intro- 
duced in the Senate by Senator George A. Davis of Erie 
County, Chairman of the Canal Committee of the Senate 


run! in the Assembly by Assemblyman Charles F. Bostwick 
of New York, extraordinary precaution was taken to avoid 
the possibility of a repetition of such fraudulent acts, as 
had been committed under prior canal measures, and special 
attention was given to the matter of requiring accurate 
certification of the kinds and quantities of material exca- 
vated. Its framers believe that it is impossible for con- 
tractors and officials to perpetrate such frauds as have here- 
tofore been the subject of investigation by commissions in 
this State. 

Under the lax business methods prevailing during the 
periods of canal construction and enlargement, it was 
hardly possible to avoid extravagance and in some instances 
perversion of State funds in improvements of such gigantic 
proportions as were involved in the construction, improve- 
ment and enlargement of the canals of the State, whose ag- 
gregate length was, approximately, 927 miles. This will be 
more apparent when we consider that this work was carried 
on for more than half a century under changing parties, 
whose purposes were political rather than commercial and 
economic. And still the waste of public moneys has been 
small in comparison with extravagance in other public im- 
provements and railway construction. When subjected to 
the scrutiny of legislative investigating commissions as in 
1846, 1876 and 1898, and the facts were fully brought out, 
much of the alleged wastefulness of public funds was found 
to have been made in carrying forward improvements and 
contending with natural forces, such as freshets, washouts, 
quicksands and the action of the water in various long 
levels and in aqueducts, which no man could foresee, and 
thereby guard against, because the problems involved were 
largely new and the structures more or less experimental. 

There were other canals wholly or partly operated in 
this State in addition to those already mentioned, such as 
the Delaware & Hudson canal, 106 miles long with a prism 
2S feet wide at the surface, 20 feet at the bottom, and 4 feet 
deep, over which passed boats 70 feet long drawing 3 feet 
of water and carrying 30 tons ; the Junction canal. 18 miles 
long, extending from Elmira to Tioga Point and costing 


$530,637; and the Sbinnecock & Peconic canal across Long- 

Many canal companies were incorporated from time to 
time. Most of these were eventually absorbed in the larger 
undertakings of the State and did not play a very important 
part in its commercial development. 1 

The proposition to build a Niagara Ship canal was 
opposed by the people of New York, and the auditor in his 
reports for 1865 and 1866 presents the arguments against 
that proposition. A bill passed the House of Representa- 
tives in 1865, authorizing a loan of six millions of dollars 
at 6 per cent, to any company incorporated in any State that 
would undertake the construction of a ship canal from Lake 
Erie to Lake Ontario; and the President was authorized to 
appoint engineers to enter upon and take possession of 
lands and waters within the territory of this State and to 
exercise the right of eminent domain without the consent, 
and if need be, against the will of the Legislature and to 
transfer all the privileges and franchises so acquired to such 

This was a most extraordinary proposition, in view of 
what New York had done and was then doing to transport 
the tonnage of the Great Lakes to the sea without any 
financial assistance from the Federal Government, and in 
face of its repeated refusal to make any appropriation to- 
wards the expense of construction or enlargement of 
the Erie canal. It was interpreted as an effort to build up 
rival routes of transportation within New York and Canada 
at the expense of our canal interests, which would divert 
commerce away from the port of New York to Montreal. 
The opposition was so pronounced that the scheme failed 
and the Niagara Ship canal was never built. This illus- 
trates, however, the problems that were constantly arising 
to perplex and annoy canal advocates in this State. 

In addition to the legislative acts and constitutional pro- 
visions heretofore mentioned, there were many others, 
some of less import, relating to various matters that arose 

1. Reports of some of these are given by Whitford in his "History of the 
Canal System of the State of New York." 


iroriS time to time along the Erie, Champlain, Oswego and 
lateral canals. In volume I of the ''History of New York 
Canals'' already cited, may be found a list of a large number 
of such acts; it would extend the bounds of this paper too 
far to give a resume of them. That remains for the his- 
torian of the canal system of the State, when its definitive 
history shall be written. A study of these acts shows the 
trend of public sentiment in this State for more than a 
century, setting strongly in favor of the construction and 
operation of a system of waterways that touched the re- 
motest parts of the State and brought many outlying 
counties into water communication with the metropolis. 
We have seen that many of these acts were the result of 
public sentiment expressed in memorials, petitions, public 
meetings and resolutions of commercial assemblages called 
to consider the questions involved as they arose from time 
to time. 

The library of the Buffalo Historical Society, the State 
Library, the large libraries of New York City, and other 
libraries of the State, as well as several commercial libraries 
such as those of the Board of Trade and Transportation of 
New York, the New York Produce Exchange and the 
Chamber of Commerce of Buffalo, and many private libra- 
ries, altogether contain a vast amount of manuscripts and 
pamphlets bearing on this important branch of the history 
of the State. Nearly every public citizen from the Living- 
ston family down to the present has been in some way 
associated with canal development in this State. Inland 
navigation was a favorite subject of conversation among 
the early settlers and historic families of this State, who 
were familiar with conditions existing in the Netherlands 
and other parts of Europe where waterways were in suc- 
cessful operation. Among these were such men as Peter 
Van Brugh Livingston, President of the Provincial Con- 
gress in 1775 and Philip Livingston, member of the Conti- 
nental Congress in 1774. He had been made acquainted 
with inland navigation in the Netherlands through the 
reports of one of the members of the family who had visited 
them. The papers, letters and documents of the period 


abound in references to the possibilities of waterways 
between the Great Lakes on the West and the Hudson river 
on the East, and the advantages to accrue to the people of 
the State from their construction and operation. Informa- 
tion in regard to canal construction in Europe was eagerly 
sought after and tours by prominent citizens of the Prov- 
ince and State of New York were made, with reference to 
ascertaining definite knowledge as to the methods of con- 
struction, size of prisms, locks and manner of construction 
of aqueducts, embankments and other parts involving en- 
gineering skill. Attention has already been called to some 
of these matters. As the work progressed, interest in- 
creased in the matter of canal construction. Tours were 
made on packet-boats over the eastern and western parts of 
the State, and the passengers were greatly interested in 
watching the operation and studying the construction of 
locks and aqueducts. The small packets with their loads of 
passengers, glided along over the waters of the canal with- 
out interruption, except at the locks, through fertile country 
which was being rapidly settled. 

In 1822 a tourist in describing a part of his journey from 
New York to Niagara Falls and return says : 

"The next morning we took a boat at Utica for Montezuma, and 
at 10 o'clock a. m. the next day we reached the place of destination 
96 miles. We immediately embarked on board of a small boat — en- 
tered the Seneca river by a lock — passed into one of its inlets, called 
the Clyde river, formed from the confluence of the Canandalgua 
outlet and Mud creek at Lyons, and navigated it until we arrived at 
Clyde — distant 15 miles by this route from Montezuma, and 12 miles 
by the canal when completed. ... At Clyde we entered the canal 
by a temporary wooden lock, and took passage in a canal boat. At 
Lyons, nine miles, we changed to the Myron Holley, a boat of 40 
tons, drawing eight inches of water, and replete with elegant accom- 
modations. We lodged that night at Palmyra, and the next morning 
we arrived at Heartwell's basin in Pittsford (eight miles from Roch- 
ester), where the present navigation of the canal terminates." 1 

The effect of the completion of the canal upon transpor- 
tation is evidenced by the fact that the transportation of 

1. Letter signed "W. G.." dated Saratoga Springs, 20th June. 1822, printed in 
pamphlet form entitled "Great Western Canal." 


merchandise from Philadelphia to Pittsburg fell from S120 
to $40 a ton in 1822. The reduction of the cost of trans- 
portation in this State has already been stated. 

The interest taken in the outlying counties of the State 
in the construction and extension of its lateral canals is well 
illustrated in a resolution of the Board of Supervisors of the 
County of Tioga adopted on November 26, 1859, which was 
formulated by the Hon. T. H. Todd, Silas Fordham, and 
P. J. Joslin. It had a wide circulation in Tioga and adjoin- 
ing counties. After a recital of the surveys for the pro- 
posed extension of the Chenango canal to the North Branch 
canal at the State line, "through a country already rich in 
the products of the forest, of agriculture and of other 
branches of industry and only wanting in the facilities of 
transportation," the resolution reads as follows: 

"The proposed addition to the Chenango ccnal is but a short link 
of less than forty miles, which is to connect the great canal systems 
of two great states thus carrying out the original designs of those 
who projected the Chenango canal, and giving it at length an oppor- 
tunity to realize their predictions of its utility and income. 

"It has become almost an axiom among the friends and projectors 
of works of internal improvements, that it is the long lines of canals 
or railroads, works giving opportunity for interchange of com- 
modities between large extents of country, which pay. Nov/ con- 
struct this small link, and we have an unbroken canal navigation 
from the Hudson river at Albany and Troy, and Lakes Champlain 
and Ontario, on the north, to Chesapeake and Delaware bays on 
the south. We open a route for traffic not merely between the in- 
terior portions of the two great states of New York and Pennsyl- 
vania, and we reach also East and West Canada and Vermont on 
the north, and Maryland, Delaware and Eastern Virginia on the 
south, and all this without the necessity for a trans-shipment. Who 
can doubt that with the commerce created by the interchange of the 
productions of these vast regions floating on her bosom, the Che- 
nango canal, including the little addition we propose, would become 
not only useful to the people of the valleys of the Chenango and 
Susquehanna and of the State generally, but profitable to the State 

One of the great objects originally intended to be accom- 
plished by the construction of the Chenango canal, is shown 


by the public documents of that day to have been an inter- 
change of the mineral productions of our own State for 
those of Pennsylvania. Exactly by what channel this was 
to be effected was not then understood. A few years 
thereafter, the construction of the North Branch canal 
of that State, was authorized by the Pennsylvania Legis- 
lature ; a work long delayed by casualties and financial em- 
barrassments, but now at length finally completed and in 
operation to the southern line of New York. Thus the 
opportunity is presented for carrying out the great leading 
object of the Chenango canal — of making the connection 
without which it cannot be said to be complete. 

The sentiment existing half a century ago as to this 
extension of the New York canal system, is well shown 
by the following extract from the resolution of the Tioga 
County Supervisors, already cited : 

"In the "meantime, inducements for engaging in this work, 
which could not then have been foreseen, certainly not fully realized, 
have been developed and accumulated. The canal system of Penn- 
sylvania has been greatly enlarged and her resources rapidly devel- 
oped. Her coal trade, then in its infancy, has become immense. 
The coal fields by the Susquehanna valley, then scarcely known. 
except to a learned few as an interesting geological feature, have 
been not only extensively opened, but penetrated by the North 
Branch canal, and thus practically brought to the borders of our own 
State, offering for our use a fuel illimitable in quantity, in quality 
unsurpassed. It wants but a small outlay to allow it to float on 
through the Chenango, Erie, Black River, Champlain, and other 
canals, to the central, northern and eastern portions of our State, to 
warm our hearths, supply our furnaces and forges, and propel our 
steamboats, cars, and machinery of every description. In exchange 
for it, Pennsylvania wants not one dollar in money. She wants our 
iron ore, our limestone, our salt, our gypsum, our hydraulic cement, 
our surplus agricultural products. The boats that bring her coal to 
us, will take these back to her. We have, of most of them, an in- 
exhaustible supply upon the very banks of the Chenango canal. 
Shall we not open the communication, and allow this exchange ? 
Pennsylvania has done her part. Shall we not do ours ? Shall New 
York not accept her sister's proffered embrace ? " 



XVI. Natural Waterways — Abolition of Tolls. 

Steamboat navigation of the Hudson river was begun 
in 1808 and grew in importance, and magnitude from that 
time forward until the volume of commerce on that river 
exceeded the tonnage of the Ohio and the Mississippi 
rivers. The official (Government) report for the year 1907 
gives the tonnage of the Hudson river at 16,403,642 tons, 
that of the Ohio river at 11,427,784 tons, and that of the 
Mississippi river at New Orleans at 4,036,594 tons. 

Steamboat service on the Hudson river has been con- 
tinuous from the building of the Clermont in 1808 and of 
a very high order of efficiency. The latest and one of the 
most commodious passenger vessels on any water of the 
world is the Henrich Hudson, of the day line between Al- 
bany and New York, licensed to carry 5,000 passengers. 

All remember the famous Mary Powell, queen of steam- 
ers, which for many years held the world's record for 
speed, she having made the (then) phenomenal run of 26 
miles per hour. The Hudson river steamers have been the 
best in the country, and in addition to those mentioned have 
included the Dean Richmond, Daniel Drew, New York, 
Albany and others celebrated for their sumptuous furnish- 
ings and equipment. The passenger service on the Hudson 
river is still large notwithstanding the fact that it is paral- 
leled by excellent railway service on each side. The Hudson 
river, with its commodious and superbly equipped steam- 
boats and with its picturesque scenery and towering pali- 
sades, and its historic places, has long been almost as popular 
and as celebrated as the Rhine with its historic castles, 
populous cities and flourishing vineyards. The tercentenary 
of its discovery is to be celebrated in an appropriate manner 
by the city and State of New York in 1909. 

From a very early date Lake George has formed an 
important link in the route of military expeditions and of 
travel between Albany and Lake Champlain. It was dis- 
covered by Father Jogues in 1646 and named by him St. 
Sacrement. It has been likened by travelers to the Lake of 
Como, but its circumjacent mountains are not as lofty nor 


are their summits capped in perpetual snow nor their bases 
clad in luxuriant sub-tropical vegetation. Several early 
expeditions were made through this valley and canoes and 
other small water craft were used for passenger service 
over its waters. It is uniquely located in the eastern foot- 
hills of the Adirondack mountains, with precipitous head- 
lands projecting into its waters, which are deep and clear, 
and it is the favorite resort for the wealthy and some of the 
literary people of this State. On its shores have been built 
the summer homes of J. Fenimore Cooper and other writers. 
For many years there has been maintained an excellent pas- 
senger service through Lake George and at present there is 
on its waters a small boat known as the Elide, which has 
made the phenomenal speed of 40 miles per hour, thereby 
winning the record for being the fastest boat in the world. 

Steamboat navigation began on Lake Champlain in 1809 
and grew in importance and magnitude from that time 
forward until the volume of commerce transported over it 
and through the Champlain canal in the year 1890 amounted 
to 1,520,757 tons. The Government report for 1907 gives 
the tonnage at 676,051 tons. This decrease was due to the 
disappearance of the fleet of sloops and schooner-rigged 
canal boats which for many years carried on an active com- 
merce on that lake and transported the tonnage between 
New York and Lake Champlain ports before the building 
of the Delaware and Hudson railroad along its west shore. 
fFrom the time of its discovery in 1609, its importance 
as a highway between New York and Quebec grew in popu- 
lar favor and the tides of trade and travel passed to and 
fro through the picturesque Champlain valley to the portage 
between Skeensboro, now Whitehall, and the Hudson river, 
until the opening up of the Champlain canal in 1822, which 
effected a continuance of water communication between 
Lake Champlain ports and New York City. From the time 
of the building of the first passenger steamboat on that 
lake, in 1809, until the present, there has been maintained a 
continuous passenger service by the Champlain Transporta- 
tion Company, which has owned and operated commodious 
steamboats and whose route for several years extended from 


Whitehall on the south to Rouses Point and even St. Johns, 
in Canada, on the north. Charles Dickens and other tour- 
ists have commented very favorably upon the excellence of 
that service and the picturesqueness of the Champlain 
valley. During a portion of that period four large passen- 
ger vessels were in commission and active service, running 
the entire length of the lake, day and night. ] The tercen- 
tenary of its discovery is to be celebrated by the States of 
New York and Vermont in July, 1909. 

Along the northwestern border of the State flows the St. 
Lawrence river, with its thousand islands, the popular 
resort for the people of this and other states, where there 
are maintained scores of fine steam yachts, plying upon its 
waters. It forms a highway between Lake Ontario ports 
and Ogdensburg, whose commerce at one time was quite 

In Central New York are the several lakes, already men- 
tioned, upon whose waters have been and are now main- 
tained small passenger vessels, and these are becoming more 
numerous as the population around them increases. In the 
western portion is Lake Chautauqua with its flotilla of small 
vessels and its popular steamboat service. On the shores 
of this lake is located the world- famed Chautauqua Assem- 
bly grounds, the resort of students and scholars of many 

In the Adirondack mountains are several hundred small 
lakes, many of which are the resort of the people of the 
metropolis. These vary in size from half a mile to several 
miles in length and some of them have an elevation of 2,000 
feet above the. level of the sea. On their waters are canoes, 
launches and other craft, that transport hundreds of passen- 
gers yearly over their waters. In the southeastern part of 
the State are the Catskill, Schoharie, Delaware and Susque- 
hanna rivers, which before the construction of railroads 
formed highways of more or less importance in the building 
up of the Empire State. 

From a very early period Long Island Sound has had an 
active and an extensive commerce. It is an arm of the 
sea and over its waters has been maintained an extensive 

"Having put our hands to the plow, let us not look backward, but 
press on to the completion of this important public improvement, for 
if we divide, we may lose the commerce that we now have and which 
has contributed to the upbuilding of the cities, towns and villages of 
this State, and which has given us the metropolis of the western 
hemisphere whose commercial achievements will be given representa- 
tion as time goes on under the masterly touch of some Tintoretto in 
adorning her stately halls and commercial palaces, with Apollo on 
the chariot of the sun relating his experiences at the great marts of 
trade after his circuit of the globe to the Council of the Gods, who 
pronounce New York the Sovereign Emporium of the world." 

The conception and the magnitude of the barge canal 
were the result of an evolution of canal agitation extend- 
ing over nearly a quarter of a century. The canal commerce 
declined somewhat in the '7o's and it was thought that the 


coastwise commerce between New York and the ports of 
Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. The Gov- 
ernment has expended large sums of money in clearing the 
channel at Hell Gate, so that some of the largest coastwise 
steamships may now safely pass over the Sound down the 
East river into the harbor of New York. The port of New- 
York is one of the finest ports in the world. In its upper 
and lower bays may be seen the merchant marine of many 
nations. Through its harbor across the high seas are main- 
tained many trans-Atlantic steamship lines, that annually 
transport to and from the metropolis thousands of passen- 
gers and upwards of 20,000,000 tons of freight. Its coast- 
wise and domestic tonnage is far more extensive and is 
said to aggregate 150,000,000 tons annually. If it has not 
already done so, the volume of its commerce at the comple- 
tion of the barge canal will undoubtedly surpass the com- 
merce of London. Therefore I may be warranted in repeat- 
ing a statement made in January, 1908, in reply to a report 
of a State official — suggesting that the barge canal project 
was the result of a short-sighted policy on the part of the 
State — in my advocacy of the prosecution of that undertak- 
ing in accordance with the plans already decided upon, which 
statement was as follows: 


abolition of tolls on canal traffic would stop the further 
decline and hold the enormous volume of commerce for the 
canal?, carried over them for a score of years prior to 1880. 

From an early day the hope was entertained by the pro- 
jectors of the canal system that the revenues derived from 
tolls would be such as to defray the expenses of canal con- 
struction and operation. Governor De Witt Clinton, as 
early as 1818, said: "There can be no doubt but that light 
tolls on our own commodities and high transit duties on 
foreign products, will, in a few years, not only accumulate 
a fund for the extinguishment of the canal debt but be a 
prolific source of revenue for the general purposes of gov- 
ernment/' Governor Clinton referred to the same matter in 
his subsequent messages, and the revenues from canal tolls 
jumped by leaps and bounds so rapidly that they exceeded 
his most sanguine expectations. In 1826, he said : "It is 
obvious that the work will in a few years pay for itself, or, 
in other words, that the income will defray the expenses of 

Governor William L. Marcy in 1833, Governor William 
H. Seward in 1839, Governor John Young in 1847, Gov- 
ernor Washington Hunt in 1851, and Governor Horatio 
Seymour in 1853, and on several later occasions, each and 
all spoke in laudatory terms of the benefits accruing from 
canal transportation in this State and with appreciation of 
the increasing revenues derived from tolls imposed on ton- 
nage on the canals. 

Canal advocates in various parts of the State united in 
conventions and presented petitions and memorials to the 
Legislature to abolish tolls on canal traffic, as they had on 
railroad traffic in 1851. Up to that time the State had real- 
ized a handsome revenue over and above the cost of con- 
struction and operation of the canal system of the State, and 
it was argued that there was no justice in continuing the 
burden upon canal tonnage to the detriment of the com- 
mercial interests of the State. There had been an evolution 
in public sentiment in regard to the fiscal canal policy of the 
State as there had been in regard to canal extension and im- 
provement after the original canals were completed. Com- 


mercial bodies and public citizens generally throughout the 
State took a broader and more statesmanlike view of the 
function of the canal system and no longer considered that 
it must be a direct paying investment per sc ; that the indi- 
rect advantages accruing from cheap transportation to ship- 
pers and the public at large were such that the State was 
benefited in many ways from the low freight rates due to 
transportation over the Erie, Champlain and Oswego canals. 
It was no longer essential that those canals turn into the 
treasury a profit to justify their continuance and operation. 
Accordingly the movement for free canals assumed tangible 
form and proportion the more the matter was discussed. 

As early as 1850, the citizens of Buffalo presented a 
memorial to the Canal Board in relation to the reduction of 
canal tolls as a result of a meeting of the forwarders and 
shippers engaged in the commerce of the lake and canals, 
held at the American Hotel, Buffalo, December 10, 1849, 
over which Dean Richmond presided and R. C. Palmer acted 
as secretary. In that memorial was reviewed the tariff of 
tolls from 1822 to 1849, an( ^ there were presented the argu- 
ments which seemed to them controlling in favor of a reduc- 
tion of the tolls then imposed upon canal traffic, of approxi- 
mately 20%. 

In 185 1, in a special message to the Legislature, Governor 
Hunt said : "The importance of the trade of the Erie canal 
to the prosperity of the State is conceded by all. No other 
public work of any age or country has contributed so largely 
to the welfare and happiness of a whole community. Every 
interest in the commonwealth has felt its vivifying influ- 

In 185 1, Mr. James L. Barton of Buffalo argued strongly 
in favor of such reduction and laid especial emphasis on the 
fact that tolls were abolished on railways and there was no 
justice in maintaining a tariff of tolls so high as to divert 
the canal tonnage to the railways. 

Other bodies presented similar memorials and these, fol- 
lowing as they did upon the release of railroads from the 
payment of tolls on railway tonnage, were taken into con- 
sideration by the Canal Board, which adopted a new tariff 


of reduced tolls in 1852. The Board made a further reduc- 
tion in 1858, but restored them in 1861 and 1862. 1 

On March 18, 1857, Commissioner Fitzhugh submitted 
to the Senate a report of the Canal Board in reply to a reso- 
lution of the Senate, calling - , among other things, for a 
report on the tonnage and tolls upon ail property which had 

"passed from tidewater to Lake Erie, out of the State, and from 
Lake Erie to tidewater; and that which had passed through the 
whole line of the Erie canal, and that which had passed through the 
Welland canal during the last five years; also what increase of tolls 
would have been produced, had all such property passed through the 
whole line of the Erie canal; also what effect on the tolls of the 
State would be produced by the discrimination and imposition of 
tolls on all such, property, whether passing through the whole length 
of the Eric canal, or through the Welland canal, or on the railroads 
of the State; and also what articles of commerce there are passing 
from or to tidewater, and Lake Erie, upon which the present rate of 
tolls may be increased or decreased, and thereby increase the reve- 

That report included tabulated statements of the infor- 
mation required, which throws light upon the trade move- 
ments during that period in this State and the effect of the 
Canadian canals upon New York canal traffic. It institutes 
an interesting comparison between the tolls imposed upon 
merchandise on the Erie canal and that imposed upon the 
Welland and Oswego canals, and shows a difference of 
several cents a ton in favor of Oswego, on account of its 
being 155 miles nearer tidewater. 

In order to secure the 90c profit per ton on all commodi- 
ties transported by the Oswego route, it would be necessary 
to have legislative protection which would give Oswego and 
Canada the monopoly to the disadvantage of residents of 
the western counties of the State, lie showed further that 
Oswego would not be able long to maintain the advantage, 
owing to the competition of Canadian canals. 

On September I, 1859, a convention was held at Roches- 
ter of delegates from various counties in the State, for the 

1. "Annual report of the Auditor of the Canal Department . . .," Al- 
bany, 1867, p. 28. 


declared purpose of "rescuing the canals from the ruin with 
which they were threatened," "by exposing and resisting 
'the Railroad Conspiracy' for discrediting the canals and 
diminishing their revenues, with a view of bringing them 
under the hammer by adopting measures for counteracting 
the ruinous competition with railroads, permitted by the 
State, and instituted by railroad directors for the express 
purpose of breaking down the credit of the canals." 

David R. Barton, Esq., of Rochester, was appointed 
chairman and George R. Babcock, H. J. Sickles, G. D. 
Lamont, Alfred Ely, L. B. Crocker, Jas. J. Glass, A. E. 
Culver, Henry O'Rielly and J. Myers, vice-presidents. 

Able addresses were made by Henry O'Rielly of New 
York, A. M. Clapp of Erie, A. H. Hovey of Syracuse, 
Gen. William H. Adams of Lyons, George R. Babcock of 
Buffalo, Carlos Cobb of Buffalo, Hon. Ensel Bascom, and 
others. The debates on that occasion were learned and 
replete with important information relative to the methods 
of transportation, the importance of the New York canal 
system in its commercial development and the imperative 
duty of the State to maintain it notwithstanding the rivalry 
and hostility of railway officials, and railway interests 
throughout the State. This gathering, and the New York 
State convention called for a similar purpose, that convened 
at Utica on September 15, 1859, were two of the most im- 
portant canal conventions held in this State prior to the 
Civil War. The Utica convention was presided over by 
Hon. Henry Fitzhugh of Oswego, and among its members 
were such well-known canal men as Albert Sawin of Erie, 
T. T. Flagler of Niagara, James Gallery of Monroe, W. 
H. Shankland of Onondaga, A. P. Seymour of Oneida, W. 
Clark of Montgomery, W. T. Cuyler of Livingston, L. D. 
Collins of Albany, John McVean of Dutchess, D. H. Eaton 
of New York, Wm. Montieth of Buffalo, J. E. Lyon of 
Oswego, S. G. Chase of Albany, and J. L. Lewis of Yates. 

In the Utica convention addresses were made by the Hon. 
Ansel Bascom, the Hon. Thomas G. Alvord of Onondaga, 
B. F. Cooper, Esq., of Utica, the Hon. D. C. Littlejohn of 
Oswego, Senator Prosser of Erie, the Hon. Henry B. Miller 


of Buffalo, Henry O'Rielly of New York, Carlos Cobb, 
of Buffalo, and others. Every phase of the canal question 
relating" to the enlargement, reduction of tolls, cost of trans- 
portation, and taxation for canal improvement, were consid- 
ered in these two conventions. They did much to emphasize 
the importance of artificial waterways of the State and 
to arrest the encroachments of railroad domination of po- 
litical and legislative bodies. No one can read the addresses 
made on those occasions without feeling- that the canal in- 
terests had at that critical period some of the foremost citi- 
zens of the State as champions, and their names ought to be 
held in grateful remembrance. 

In 1862, Gov. Edwin D. Morgan declared that "the rail- 
roads have seriously diverted business from the canals/' and 
he gave statistics to show the decrease of canal traffic since 
the abolition of railroad tolls in 185 1. In his message to the 
Legislature, he strongly urged the restoration of railroad 
tolls to prevent further diversion of canal traffic. 

In 1865, Governor Reuben E. Fenton, without protest, 
contented himself with stating that: "Quantities of produce 
have been diverted from the canals to the speedy lines of 
communication [railroads] thus swelling their business." 

In 1866, Governor Reuben E. Fenton in speaking of the 
harbor of New York and the prosperity of the State due to 
canal traffic, said : "The termination of the grandest system 
of internal water communication in the world constrains by 
irrevocable natural decree the immense and constantly in- 
creasing productions of the West to her inland ports." 

In 1870 the Canal Board with the consent of the Legis- 
lature reduced the tolls below the rate prescribed in 1852. 
Competition for freight between the several railroads, 
reaching out for the traffic of the West, reduced the rates 
of railroad traffic below any point theretofore reached and 
canal commerce was diverted to railways. The Canal 
Board declared that "the tolls shall be adjusted to attract 
and not to repel freight seeking transportation." 

In 1 87 1, Governor John T. Hoffman, in his annual mes- 
sage to the Legislature, says: "The business of the canals 
suffered during the past summer from a great reduction of 


railroad rates of freight, temporarily made by rival com- 
panies in a struggle for the western trade." 

In 1873 a concurrent resolution was passed by Senate and 
Assembly whereby the Legislature assented to the reduction 
of canal tolls not exceeding 50% below the rates prescribed 
by the toll sheet of 1852. 1 The expenditures for lateral 
canals during the year 1873 exceeded their income by $231,- 
449, and that deficit became a charge upon the revenues of 
the Erie and Champlain canals. The reduction of tolls 
made it necessary to pay a portion of the canal enlargement 
debt from the proceeds of deficiency bonds running ten, 
fifteen and eighteen years. 

In 1874 there was adopted an amendment to the Consti- 
tution limiting the expenditures in any one year on the canal 
to the gross income of the previous year. Prior thereto the 
gross income had been upwards of three million dollars and 
there seemed to be no serious objection to the proposed 
Constitutional limitation. The possibility of the income 
falling below the cost of repairs and maintenance was not 
thought of. The Canal Auditor says that: "The effect of 
the amendment on the future of our canals does not appear 
to have been duly considered in all its bearings when orig- 
inally proposed." But "it was exceedingly unfortunate in 
view of the diminished and diminishing revenues." 2 

Governor Tilden, in his message to the Legislature in 
1875, in referring to the policy of the State towards its canal 
interests, which he characterized as a trust for the million, 
stated that that policy was not designed "to make revenue 
or profit for the sovereign out of the right of way," and that 
the act repealing railroad tolls was in accordance with this 

In the year 1876 the tonnage on the New York canals was 
approximately one third of the aggregate tonnage on the 
New York Central and Erie railroads, whereas in the year 
1873 it was m ore than half of the aggregate tonnage of 
those two railwavs. 

1. Canal Auditor's report for 1873. 

a. Canal Auditor's report for 1875, p. x\ 


The Canal Auditor in 1877, in his report for that year, 

"For the past three years the Canal Board of the Legislature ap- 
pear to have been convinced that in consequence of the sharp com- 
petition of the railroads and the efforts of neighboring states to in- 
crease their trade in western products, it was hazardous to attempt 
to realize from the tonnage of the canals any more revenue than 
would barely suffice to pay their running expenses, leaving the prin- 
cipal and interest of the canal debt to be procured by taxation." 1 

It is said that the Superintendent of Public Works, in 
1SS1, submitted to the Canal Board plans and specifications 
and permit to allow the New York Central, and New York, 
West Shore & Buffalo Railway Company to occupy canal 
lands at Little Falls, and that the Canal Board assented 
thereto. Captain William C. Clark of Constantia, N. Y., 
who for a generation has been one of the most strenuous 
canal advocates of the State, characterizes that act as the 
commencement of "the confiscation of canal lands for rail- 
road purposes." 2 

The period of greatest prosperity on the canals was that 
from 1868 to 1874, at which latter date the tonnage began 
to decline owing to railroad competition. 

In 1877, the Hon. James W. Husted made a strong 
speech in the Assembly in favor of the reduction of canal 
tolls in which he said: "Freedom of the canal is a measure 
not only of justice, not only of commercial supremacy, not 
only of financial prosperity, but it is a measure of political 
economy." On September 20, 1S77, the Hon. James Wads- 
worth of New York City appeared before the Board of 
Trade of Buffalo, over which Alonzo Richmond presided 
and William Thurstone acted as secretary, in advocacy of 
the abolition of tolls and making the canals free. His ad- 
dress on that occasion was replete with information relative 
to State, national and international questions of commerce 
and the functions of waterways in the colonization and com- 

1. Canal Auditor's report for 1877, pp. 21, 22. 

2. Report of Canal Commissioners for 1877, p. 13. 


mercial development of different countries. Among other 
things, he said: 

"The canals of the State are the primal source of our material 
prosperity, and should be our main reliance for its permanent in- 

"All Europe is engaged today in a vast controversy which nar- 
rows itself down to two single propositions: 

"First. Shall the Bosphorus be opened to the navies as well as 
the fleets of the world, or shall it be kept closed? 

"Second. Shall the Suez canal remain the property of French 
and English speculators, subject to the caprices of an Egyptian vice- 
roy and a Turkish porte, or shall it be internationalized and become 
the common highway of the nations? 

"The publicists of Europe unite in saying that these straits ought 
to be made free. The Erie canal is the American Bosphorus — it is 
our Egyptian Suez — and with this advantage to my argument, that 
they are not alien but sister states entitled to equality of privilege 
under the Constitution that demand this freedom of passage. 

"Again, in the work which it is immediately doing for human 
kind, it is of infinitely greater significance and importance than the 
Bosphorus and the Suez together." 

After reviewing briefly the condition of things during the 
early years of navigation over the New York canals and 
what they had accomplished, he said further : "The canals 
of the State are the primal source of our material prosperity, 
and should be our main reliance for its permanent increase." 

He closed his argument in an appeal to the Board of 
Trade of Buffalo "to inaugurate a great policy, which will 
be as beneficent, as it will be everlasting, and require of 
your law-makers the entire freedom of the canals of the 
State." 1 

On February 27, 1878, Hon. Isaac I. Hayes of New 
York, the Hon. Harvey J. Hurd of Erie, and the Hon. 
Thomas J. Alvord of Onondaga, all members of the Assem- 
bly, addressed the committee of the whole upon pending 

1. "Free Canals. An address delivered before the Buffalo Board of 
Trade, September 20, 1877, by the Hon. James Wadsworth, of the City of New 
York. Printed for circulation by the Low Tolls Association of Western New 
York," Buffalo, 1877. 


concurrent resolutions offered by Mr. Hayes proposing an 
amendment to the Constitution abolishing tolls upon the 
canals. In a formal and able manner were presented the 
arguments in support of those resolutions, and special 
emphasis was laid upon the indirect benefits which had 
accrued to the State from the business of the canals during 
the preceding 40 years. It was stated that they were 
nothing compared with what would be realized in the future 
if the canals were made free. 

In 1878, Governor Lucius Robinson stated that boatmen 
received better returns in 1877 * nan tne ) r na< ^ received some 
years prior thereto. 

One of the most convincing arguments in favor of the 
abolition of tolls was made by ex-Governor Horatio Sey- 
mour before the Canal Committee of the Legislature of New 
York, on April 9, 1878. Among other things he said: "The 
sum of tolls paid last year was so small that it will not pay 
enough to keep our canals open if great care is not used. 
There must be no waste. Every dollar spent must be put 
where it will be of the most use. The Erie which pays the 
greater share of tolls must keep up, for if that stops, all 
other canals must close." 

On April 11, 1878, Alonzo Richmond of Buffalo pre- 
sented his views to the Board of Trade of Buffalo, in an 
address on "A Free Canal essential to the State's Prosperity, 
with some Ideas upon Internal Navigation." He called 
attention to the fact that high canal tolls foster rival routes 
in a manner which could leave little else to be said upon that 
subject and which may be used with equal effect in combat- 
ing undue restrictions on transportation today. He called 
attention to the carrying capacity of the Erie canal and of 
its possible increase by the adoption of the Illinois system, 
which consisted of a canal steamer and barge or barges 
forming a fleet of boats and moving over its waters freed 
from tolls and other restrictions as freely as they move along 
rivers. This was prophetic of what is to take place on the 
barge canal, free from tolls, and upon whose waters fleets 
of boats, much like those of the Illinois system, will trans- 
port its vast tonnage. 


On June 10, 1878, Senator William Windom of Minne- 
sota stated in his speech in the United States Senate that 
"Cheap water transportation alone enables us to sell our 
surplus in the poor markets of the world," and that farmers 
of the interior of this continent were therefore wholly de- 
pendent upon the water routes for the sale of their surplus 

Among the interesting proposals prior to the abolition of 
tolls was a proposition "favoring the introduction without 
expense to the State, of an improved system of towage upon 
the canals, by a railway to be constructed subsidiary 

Many well-known men in various cities of the State were 
incorporators of the Buffalo, Syracuse & Albany Railroad 
Company, incorporated to tow boats, at a charge fixed by 
the State, along its canals from Buffalo to Albany. It was 
confidently asserted that the revenues derived therefrom 
would not only be Sufficient to extinguish the canal debt, 
but to pay the tolls on the canal traffic. It was argued that 
such a result would be more satisfactory to the people than 
to accomplish the same by constitutional amendment. It 
was asserted that five boats might be towed in a train at 
the rate of three to five miles per hour, each carrying 240 
tons, at a reduction of 34% below the prevailing expenses 
of a round trip from Buffalo to Troy and return. The argu- 
ment of Mr. Henry Edwin Tremain of New York, however, 
did not avail and the canals w r ere not brought under railroad 

After the nine million dollar appropriation was made in 
1895, and it was found inadequate to enlarge the canals in 
accordance with what was known as the "Seymour plan," 
it was proposed by some that it might be advantageous to 
the State to turn the canal properties over to railway com- 
panies, or to construct a railway in the prisms of the canals. 
The futility of that proposition is apparent to any one 
familiar with the relative cost of transportation over water- 
ways, railways and highways which has long been known 
but recently determined by a well-known writer, O. Eltz- 
bacher, who says that 


"on a horizontal road, and at a speed of about three miles an hour, 
a horse can pull about two tons; on a horizontal railway he can pull 
about fifteen tons, and on a canal he can pull from sixty to one 
hundred tons. Therefore, from four to six times the energy is re- 
quired in hauling goods by rail, and thirty to fifty times more force 
is expended in hauling it by road, whatever the motive force may be. 
Therefore, the cost of propulsion by water, whether the motive force 
be horse, traction, steam or electricity, is only a fraction of the cost 
arising from propulsion by road or rail. ... It is therefore clear 
that transport by water is, and must always remain, owing to its very 
nature so very much cheaper than transport, be it by road or rail, 
that railways cannot possibly compete with properly organized, man- 
aged planned, and equipped waterways. Hence it is economically 
wasteful not to extend and develop the natural and artificial water- 
ways, which a country possesses, and is absolutely suicidal and crim- 
inal to let them fall into neglect and decay." 1 

This is one of the latest statements of the comparative 
cost of transportation over highways, railways and water- 
ways and is undoubtedly as scientifically accurate as it is 
possible to be determined. 

On February 28, 1879, a resolution was passed in the 
Assembly of the State authorizing the appointment of a 
special committee of five persons to investigate, among 
other things, the abuses alleged to exist in the management 
of the railroads chartered in this State, the membership of 
which committee was increased from five to nine by a reso- 
lution passed on March 12, 1879; and by a subsequent 
resolution adopted on March 27, 1879, such committee was 
authorized to sit during the recess of the legislature and 
take testimony. Mr. A. B. Hepburn was appointed chair- 
man, and there were associated with him H. L. Dugid, 
James Lowe, William L. Noyes, James W. Wadsworth, 
Charles S. Baker, J. W. Husted and George L. Terry. That 
committee made its report to the Legislature on January 
27, 1880, in which it said: 

"It has always been recognized as one of the paramount duties of 
the State to provide means for the inter-communication of its people 
and an exchange of commercial productions. This was originally 

I. "Modern Germany," pp. 236, 237. 


the turnpike, which continued as the only means of inland com- 
munication until the ease and facility of water communication sug- 
gested and brought forth the canal. Connecting, by an artificial, 
navigable waterway, two natural bodies of water, was a long stride 
in advancing commerce. Its importance in public estimation can 
easily be realized by recalling the exultation that crowned the com- 
pletion of the Erie canal, or by marking the prominence accorded in 
history to the man who conceived its construction. Its actual im- 
portance may be realized by marking the growth of our metropolis 
as this new-born artery poured into her harbor the products of the 

In speaking of differential rates the report further says 
that "New York possesses the key to the situation in the 
Erie canal." "The cost of water transportation from Chi- 
cago to New York determines the rate of rail transporta- 
tion, and the rate of rail transportation from Chicago to 
New York is the base line upon which railroad rates are 
determined and fixed throughout the country." And fur- 
ther, quoting the testimony of Mr. Blanchard, President of 
the Erie Railroad, the committee state: 

"The State holds within its grasp the great controller of the 
freight rate within its borders, to wit, the canal. There is not a 
town that is not affected more or less within this whole State, from 
the extreme northeast to the extreme southwest corner of it, by the 
canal policy and rates of this State." 

"The State has contributed in aid of railroads, in round numbers, 
eight millions of dollars, and the various localities by donation and 
investment in stocks and bonds nearly thirty-one millions of dollars, 
for which unwise action so many of the localities are now suffering." 

"The proposition to abolish the tolls of public canals and make 
their support a charge upon the State has received the strongest en- 
dorsement in New York and Brooklyn, demanding their solid sup- 
port. Should this policy prevail, the territory bordering upon New 
York harbor would, according to the apportioned tax of 1879, be 
compelled to pay 60 per cent, of the tax for this purpose." 

In speaking further on the subject of railway regulation, 
they say that "The competition of water-ways serves as a 
general regulator of rail rates" ; that "competition exercises 
a beneficent office, and the natural laws of rivalry and trade 


adjust and correct evils in the aggregate; but, as the rail- 
way is artificial, so must the restraining power that adjusts 
the relations between through and local traffic, between com- 
peting and non-competing points, between large and small 
shippers, be artificial also." 1 

The effect of railway competition was such as to arouse 
deep interest in the movement to abolish tolls on canal ton- 
nage, and it was the principal question that agitated the 
people for a decade prior to 1880. In the Constitutional 
Convention of 1867 much time was given to the considera- 
tion of tolls on canal traffic and that matter continued to 
receive much attention as shown in the official and unofficial 
proceedings, to which I have already alluded. 

The Auditor's reports from year to year contained dis- 
cussions of the fiscal features of the canal policy of the 
State and in some instances detailed statements were given 
of the revenues derived under tariffs of diminishing tolls. 
The operation of sinking funds was also considered and 
grave questions of public policy confronted each succeeding 
administration. Canal matters were still further compli- 
cated by charges of fraud in the administration of canal 
affairs and these led, as we have already seen, to an official 
investigation in 1875. Railway magnates took advantage 
of these conditions and succeeded in diverting a large 
amount of traffic to railways and in prevailing upon the 
Legislature to dispose of lateral canals. 

The constitutional amendment adopted in 1874 permitted 
the sale or abandonment of all canals owned by the State 
excepting the Erie, the Champlain, the Oswego, the Cayuga 
and Seneca canals. By chapter 404, laws of 1877, the dis- 
posal and sale of the Chenango, the Chemung, the Crooked 
Lake and the Genesee Valley canals were authorized. Opera- 
tion of the Chenango canal was discontinued on May I, 
1878, the Chemung canal at the close of navigation, 1878, 
the Crooked Lake canal on June 4, 1877, and the Genesee 
Valley canal on September 30, 1S7S.- The discontinuance 
of the lateral canals relieved the State for the time being of 

1. N. Y. Assembly Doc. No. 38, Jan. 22, j83o. 

2. Canal Auditor's report for 1877, p. 15. 


the expense of their maintenance and operation, but was a 
great loss to the public who were thereafter made wholly 
dependent on railway transportation at a much greater cost. 

Within the last three years, bills have been introduced in 
the Legislature authorizing surveys of one or more of the 
routes of the abandoned canals for the ultimate purpose of 
reopening them for commercial purposes. 

In 1881 Senator Benjamin H. Williams of Buffalo stated 
in the Senate that "We cannot rely r upon our railroads for 
the preservation of our trade. Our advantage over our 
sister states consists in the possession of a route which makes 
a waterway possible from the West to the seaboard." 

Governor Alonzo B. Cornell, in his message to the Legis- 
lature in 18S2, said: "The competition of railways, enlarge- 
ment of the Canadian canals and the development of the 
Mississippi river route, were important considerations with 
reference to the future capacity of the canals to arrange 
the necessary revenue for maintenance." 

One of the most effective speeches in the Assembly in 
favor of the concurrent resolution to abolish tolls was that 
made by Hon. Arthur W. Hickman of Buffalo on March 
23, 1882, in the course of which he said: 

"Our Canadian neighbors are mortgaging their entire earthly pos- 
sessions to put their water route in condition to meet the require- 
ments of cheap water transportation. Minnesota, Dakota, Montana 
and the Northwest Territories of Canada are all great grain-pro- 
ducing countries, whose virgin soil has scarcely been broken by the 
plow. Their present and prospective products are immense. They 
can all be reached by water. These products will follow the estab- 
lished channels of trade in finding a market, and will pay magnificent 
tribute to the place where they find it. The natural water route leads 
to our door. Shall we close it, or shall we receive its freight with 
thanksgiving and joy? A single penny is an insignificant sum, but 
that one penny levied as a toll on each bushel of this immense pro- 
duction will drive it from us. Were there no other outlet for it, that 
extra penny would build one, just as it has built the Welland canal 
and the Mississippi improvements. But there are other outlets 
reaching out with eager hands to clutch the coveted prize. The 
Mississippi and the St. Lawrence crave the trade we spurn. They 
are attracting shippers to their routes and accustoming them to their 


ways. They are inviting the ships of the world to leave the docks 
df New York, and to seek their cargoes at Montreal and New- 
Orleans. Once establish the channel of communication through 
these routes and you may find it difficult or impossible to restore it 
to your own. An oppressive toll drove the west-bound freight from 
the canal, and \\ e have seen in the experience of the last year how- 
hard it is to woo it back again from the course it has fallen into, 
even though the tolls have been removed. That it will come back, 
we believe, but it may come slowly. 

"Mr. Chairman, it does not seem possible that it should be neces- 
sary to take time to convince any member of this House that it is 
desirable that this great western trade should come through New 
York, and that within our borders it should find a market and a 
distributing point, and that the State would be greatly benefited 
thereby. We make the broad claim that the present position and 
condition of the State is a monument to the wisdom of those who 
projected and completed the Erie canal, and made the commerce of 
the west pass through its channel. . . . 

"It must be remembered that freight is an essential element in 
making up the price of every article sold. Every cent saved on 
freight enables the merchant to sell one cent cheaper, and the con- 
sumer is the party benefitted. 

"Mr. Chairman, the history of the State speaks in favor of the 
passage of this resolution. The thinking men of the State favor it. 
The State officials charged with this branch of the government rec- 
ommend it, and the people of the State need it. 

"I trust that a wise, liberal policy towards the canals may prevail, 
and that the resolution may pass." 

In 1882, ex-Governor Horatio Seymour addressed a 
formal communication to J. W. Higgins, chairman of the 
Assembly Committee on Canals, strongly in favor of the 
pending Constitutional amendment, and among other things 

"Tolls are taxes of the most hurtful kind to the whole com- 
munity. They are a form of special taxation that have been found 
so hurtful in all parts of the civilized world that they have been 
abolished to a great degree. They fall oppressively upon labor, in- 
dustry and commerce; their exactions after they have once been 
paid by the carrier are transferred and thrown upon our mechanics 
and other classes of citizens. 


"All would deride the folly of a city government which should 
impose a tax upon those who used their streets as thoroughfares or 
marts of commerce upon the ground that these avenues were ex- 
pensive to maintain. Is there any more wisdom in the government 
of a State which imposes tolls or taxes upon those who use its 
avenues for the purpose of bringing to it articles needed to promote 
its commerce and its industries? While other sections are trying to 
divert traffic from our cities by making cheaper routes, is it wise for 
us to drive it away by taxation?" 

It appears that railway managers were not only opposed 
to the abolition of canal tolls, but that they were suspected 
of resorting to a policy that would "so depress business 
during the navigable season as to make it too unprofitable 
to encourage the building of canal boats and vessels, and in 
that way gradually dissipate the equipment of a water route, 
and by systematic efforts so diminish the revenues of the 
canal as to prevent the possibility of maintaining them.''' * 

On November i, 1882, the Hon. William M. Evarts of 
New York addressed a meeting held at the Cooper Union 
hall, in the advocacy of the approval of the constitutional 
amendment abolishing tolls. In the course of his remarks, 
he said: 

"These humble, laborious servants of commerce that slowly kept 
their way after the horses that trudged the paths, are nevertheless 
and have been for sixty years, as important a factor in the wealth, 
the prosperity and in the development of the population of the State 
and the City of New York, as any of the proud steamers or any of- 
the brave railroad trains that make so much noise in the world. 
These patient servants of your prosperity and pride are not easily 
discouraged, but if you will, with all other things in this State free 
and progressive, determine that the canals shall be choked and the 
boats held fast and all made dependent upon a concurrence of ex- 
penditure and receipts, without which, equal to their wants, inter- 
ruption and final closure of the canals shall take place, you will be 
like other people who, overlooking the humble source of their pros- 
perity, fall finally a victim to that pride which goeth before a fall." 

The constitutional amendment relating to the canals, after 
receiving the concurrence of the Legislature of i88i-'82, 

Canal Auditor's report for iS£o, p. 13. 


was approved by the people at the general election in the 
latter year and became operative on January i, 1883. 
Thereafter no tolls were levied upon canal traffic, but boat- 
men were subject to such regulations as might be necessary 
to maintain the canals in a navigable condition. There was 
inserted in the Constitution at that time provision that the 
Legislature should annually provide for the expenses of the 
superintendence and repairs of the canals and for the pay- 
ment of the principal and interest of the canal debt by 
equitable taxes. 1 

The movement for the reduction and final abolition of 
tolls extended over a quarter of a century and was the result 
of the operation of the immutable laws of trade, which 
flourish most where freed from all restraints. Commerce 
like water flows through channels of least resistance and it 
was argued that the abolition of tolls would put our canals 
into the category of free waterways, over which much of 
the commerce of the world is transported. 

XVII. Promotion of various Canal Interests. 

The abolition of tolls was followed in 1883 by a slight 
increase in canal tonnage, but did not arrest the gradual 
decline in the volume of canal tonnage, which had been 
going on for some years. The abolition of tolls, however, 
materially checked the diversion of traffic from the canals 
to the railroads, but it is evident that other causes than tolls 
were also instrumental in the diversion of tonnage from the 
canals to the railroads beyond the reach of constitutional 
amendment or legislative enactment. Expressage, perish- 
able and light freights, naturally seek the quickest route, 
while bulky tonnage seeks the less expensive although slower 
water transport. That has been the experience in all coun- 
tries where railways are brought in competition with canal 
transportation. The abolition of tolls on both railways and 
canals was the result of the operation of economic laws due 

1. See Section 3 of Article 7 of the Constitution as amended Nov. 7, il 


to trade relations existing within and beyond the confines of 
the State, and therefore beyond its control. Consequently 
it was a wise policy for the State to adapt its transportation 
facilities to the exigencies of trade relations and hold for it 
the commerce passing between the seaboard and the Great 
Lakes on the west, which otherwise had been more largely 
diverted to the northern and southern routes. From the 
beginning its commercial policy has been a progressive one 
and it has been dominated by far-sighted statesmanship. 
The competition of rival routes has been keen and trunk line 
managers have gone so far to divert the commerce of the 
State of New York as to establish differential rates against 
the port of New York, and still the. tonnage of the water- 
ways and railways of this State and the lake commerce at 
the port of Buffalo and the foreign and coastwise commerce 
of the port of New York have continued to increase and tne 
State to maintain its commercial supremacy over the other 
states of the Union. 

In 1862 a memorial was presented to President Lincoln 
in pursuance of an act of the Legislature of the State of 
New York passed on April 22, 1S62, to adapt the canals of 
the State to the defense of the northern and northwestern 
lakes, and a resolution calling upon the Governor of the 
State "to take such measures as he shall deem necessary and 
proper for inviting the attention of the General Government 
to the measures proposed in the act, and their great import- 
ance to the national interests/' 

The Canadian canals had assumed such proportions as to 
arouse the feeling in this State that our canal system ought 
to be made adequate to accommodate vessels like the Moni- 
tor, which had shortly theretofore achieved so signal a vic- 
tory on the waters of Chesapeake Bay. This led Americans 
to believe that the prisms of the Erie and Oswego canals 
ought to be increased to admit of navigation by vessels of 
the type of the Monitor for American coast defense along 
the Great Lakes. It will be remembered that this matter 
was considered during the progress of the enlargement of 
the Champlain canal. Congress took no action upon the 


memorial and the canals were not enlarged as proposed in 
that memorial. 1 

In the National Convention, held in Chicago in June. 
1863, attended by Hon. Edward Bates, Attorney-General of 
the United States, 98 members of the Senate and House of 
Representatives, and delegates designated by the Governors, 
Boards of Trade, Chambers of Commerce, and agricultural 
associations in the several northern states, another memorial 
was formulated, expressing the conclusion reached, that 
"enlarged water-facilities for communication between the 
East and the West, both for military and commercial pur- 
poses" was a need profoundly realized. The memorialists 
went so far as to favor a great national highway, which 
they stated was demanded alike "by military prudence, the 
necessities of commerce, and political wisdom." This 
memorial deals with the question largely from a military 
point of view and emphasizes the importance of arming the 
northern frontier and the Lakes adequately, to meet, or to 
protect, our territory from hostile attack or invasion. In 
that convention were such noted statesmen as Thomas H. 

1. The Hon. John M. Carson, chief of the Federal Bureau of Manufac- 
tures, in his report for 190S to the U. S. Department of Commerce and Labor, 

"The Canadian Government has definitely decided to construct a ship canal 
to connect the Georgian Bay, on Lake Huron, with the St. Lawrence River, 
which would greatly increase the commerce of Montreal. This Georgian Bay 
canal is to be 20 feet deep and run by the way of the French and Ottawa 
rivrs. The Dominion government has already spent $500,000 on surveys. The 
waterway will be 425 miles long, with 30 or 40 locks. Many existing water- 
ways will be utilized. The canal proper, by which is meant such conditions as 
will require low speed, will have an aggregate length of only 32 miles, and in 
practice the disadvantages inherent in an artificial canal, according to a gov- 
ernment report, will hardly exist. 

"It is estimated that grain can be carried from Chicago to Montreal by 
this route at 3 cents a bushel, as compared with 4% cents at American ports. 
While the canal has not actually been authorized, it is believed from what has 
been done already that it will be constructed at a comparatively early date. 
This Georgian Bay canal will shorten the distance from Lake Huron to Mon- 
treal by 300 miles and avoid the navigation of Lakes Ontario and Erie and of 
the St. Lawrence river above Montreal, and would naturally, during part of 
the year while it would be open, attract a large volume of traffic. About 
60,000,000 tons of products are carried eastward over the lakes each year, of 
which Canadian vessels now carry less than 3 per cent. Canada's appropria- 
tions for canal and navigation improvements now exceed $100,000,000." 


Benton of Missouri, Silas Wright, Frank P. Blair, and other 
distinguished statesmen. 

That memorial likewise failed to secure Federal aid for 
canal enlargement. 

On March 24, 1863, a joint meeting of the committees 
of the Board of Trade of Buffalo, and of the Produce Ex- 
change of New York City, was held in the city of New 
York to formulate resolutions to be presented to the Legis- 
lature for the furtherance of the Erie canal improvement. 
It was addressed by General Hiram Walbridge of New 
York and the Hon. George S. Hazard of Buffalo. In Gen- 
eral Walbridge's speech he deplored the failure of Congress 
to make the necessary appropriation to increase the inland 
water communication between the East and the West and 
called attention to the fact that the Legislature of Illinois 
had appointed a committee to proceed to Canada and if need 
be, to London, to lay before the British Government the 
great inducements which now exist for opening an interior 
water communication by way of Lakes Michigan, Huron 
and the Georgian Bay direct to Montreal and from the 
River St. Lawrence to the Atlantic ocean. 

A committee representing the Board of Trade of Buffalo 
thereupon appealed to the Produce Exchange to unite with 
it in appealing to the Legislature and induce that body 
"when making the necessary appropriation for the construc- 
tion of the additional locks on the western division of the 
Erie Canal, between Rochester and Montezuma, to have 
them of sufficient capacity to pass barges capable of trans- 
porting from 20,000 to 30,000 bushels of grain, and thereby 
supersede those" then in use. The Hon. George S. Hazard 
of Buffalo, then President of the Buffalo Board of Trade 
and afterwards President of the Buffalo Historical Society, 
was chairman of the committee which recommended this 
enlargement, and it is singularly prophetic in that it recom- 
mended an enlargement substantially as capacious as the 
barge canal now in process of construction. 

The joint committee proceeded to Albany and presented 
their views to the joint committee of the Legislature. They 
strongly urged the increase in size of the locks, substantially 


as proposed by the committee of the Board of Trade in 
Buffalo. They also recommended that the locks west of 
Montezuma be enlarged at an early day. 

On April 3, 1863, the Hon. Samuel B. Rugbies, commis- 
sioner appointed by the Governor of the State of New York 
under the concurrent resolution of the Legislature of April 
22, 1862, in respect to the enlargement of the canals for 
national purposes, made his report, which was transmitted 
to the Legislature by Governor Horatio Seymour, on April 
8, 1863. In this report, Commissioner Ruggles states that 
he "personally attended before the President and several of 
the heads of Departments, and also before the various com- 
mittees of the Houses of Congress, who have the subject 
in charge." lie "also attended and assisted at several meet- 
ings of the members of Congress, informally assembled to 
consider the merits of the proposed measures, and has been 
engaged in constant and daily consultation and conference 
on the subject with individual members." He stated that 
the bill introduced in Congress to carry out the national 
measures proposed by the Legislature of New York was 
defeated, and he proposed the calling of a national conven- 
tion in the city of Chicago in the same year for the purpose, 
among other things, of presenting to the next Congress the 
"high considerations of national importance, military, com- 
mercial and political, involved in the adequate enlargement 
of the canals between the valley of the Mississippi and the 
Atlantic." He embodied in his report documents, resolu- 
tions and many data relating to the subject matter, which he 
was commissioned to present to the President and Congress 
of the United States, but which failed to receive Federal 

In 1865 a convention was held in Detroit, at which were 
delegates from various lake ports, to consider reciprocal 
trade relations between the States and Canada. On that 
occasion the Hon. Israel T. Hatch of Buffalo presented 
views of the commercial interests of Buffalo in a strikingly 
able speech. He reviewed the various commerce treaties 
between theUnited States and Canada and called attention to 
the advantages to accrue from reciprocal trade relations with 


the Dominion. In it were suggestions and interesting facts 
of the commercial development of the State. It evinces a 
keen commercial instinct, ever on the alert to reach out for 
trade and to extend our commerce to the north as well as to 
the west. Mr. Hatch performed other distinguished ser- 
vices for Buffalo at that period of its history. On January 
30, 1867, he made a report in relation to the "revenue, trade 
and commerce of the United States with the British prov- 
inces since the abrogation of the reciprocity treaty, and any 
changes in Canadian tariff regulations," and the "compara- 
tive importance of American and Canadian commercial 
channels of transportation of property from the west to 
the seaboard." That report is long and deals intelligently 
with the important questions submitted to him for his con- 
sideration. It shows a wide acquaintance with the import- 
ant commercial and transportation questions involved and 
the extent of the commerce over the Canadian and New 
York canals, and the advantages afforded by them as ave- 
nues of commerce. 

Mr. J. D. Hayes of Buffalo strongly combated 1 the pro- 
posed Niagara Ship canal, which had been the mooted 
question for upwards of half a century, and demonstrated 
its futility as a commercial or military necessity. One 
cannot read these papers without reaching the conclusion, 
often repeated since they were written, that the construc- 
tion of a canal between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario would 
not contribute to the commercial development of the State 
of New York, but would redound to the benefit of Canadian 

Senator D. S. Bennett of Erie County, in 1867, made an 
argument before the Senate Committee on canals, in favor 
of the enlargement of the locks on the Erie and Oswego 
canals, the cost of which was estimated at $8,215,263. In 
this connection it is interesting to know that in 1866 the 
number of arrivals and departures of vessels at Buffalo 
aggregated 14,078, with an aggregate registered tonnage of 
7,317,428 tons. It appeared to the advocates of the enlarged 
locks that the tremendous strides in lake and canal commerce 

In a series of papers contributed to the Buffalo Commercial Advertiser. 


at the port of Buffalo rendered it essential that the locks of 
the canal be enlarged to admit of the passage of vessels 200 
ivxt long, 23^/2 feet wide, drawing 6^2 feet of water. Such 
vessels would carry from 550 to 800 tons. 

In the Constitutional Convention of 1867 many canal 
matters received consideration and consumed much time. 
Canal construction, operation, enlargement and improvement 
involved a State financial policy adequate to meet the bur- 
dens of such public improvements. In the Convention of 
1867 two committees were appointed to deal with canal 
affairs. The reports of these two committees were consid- 
ered in the committee of the whole and involved such ques- 
tions as the liquidation of the canal debt of the State and 
the creation of sinking funds to accomplish that result, and 
the insertion of the provision requiring all canal contracts 
to be let to the lowest responsible bidders. The amount of 
canal indebtedness was limited and the convention went on 
record against the creation of a debt of $12,000,000 for 
enlarging canal locks and rested their conclusion on the fact 
that a seven foot prism was adequate to do all the business 
that the Erie canal had ever been required to perform and 
there was no immediate necessity for enlargement of the 
canal locks, the actual expense of which might far exceed 
the estimated cost. 

In 1869 the Hon. D. S. Bennett of Buffalo, in the House 
of Representatives, presented a bill seeking Federal aid for 
the improvement of the Erie canal, which he denominated a 
"national highway between the Great Lakes and the Hudson 
river." He discussed the matter fully and called particular 
attention to the enterprise of the statesmen and business 
interests of the Dominion of Canada who were then crowd- 
ing forward a system of waterways and canal construction 
that were the despair of some of our American states and 
could only be rivaled by the Federal Government. 

In 1869 Senator Asher P. Nichols of Buffalo, in the dis- 
cussion of a bill in relation to canal contracts and repairs, 

"The canals of New York, that marvelous system of internal im- 
provements, needs no eulogy here. New York, without undue as- 


sumption, claims the position of the Empire State. Among all the 
bright sisterhood she wears the crown of commercial supremacy. If 
there be one thing more than another to which we are indebted for 
our fame and commercial leadership, it is our magnificent artificial 
highways of commerce." 

In 1870 a State convention of the canal interests was 
called by the Commercial Union of the State of New York, 
to consider measures for reforming the management and 
improving the trade of the New York State canals. Tta 
Hon. Nathaniel Sands was chosen president of the conven- 
tion, and among the vice-presidents were Israel T. Hatch, 
ex-President Millard Fillmore, Alexander Brush, Asher P. 
Nichols, S. S. Guthrie, Niks Case, Hiram Niks, George S. 
Hazard and George W. Tifft, all of Buffalo. From other 
counties were many of the most prominent men of the State 
who theretofore and at that time were identified with its 
commercial deevlopment. The Hon. Horatio Seymour, the 
Hon. Israel T. Hatch of Buffalo, the Hon. Henry L. Fish 
of Rochester, and others, made addresses. The proceed- 
ings of that convention are interesting to all canal advocates 
and the membership comprised large delegations of prom- 
inent men from several counties of the State. Their pres- 
ence afforded some indication of the importance given to 
canal transportation by its leading citizens at that period of 
its history. 

It was generally recognized that the improvement in 
railroad equipment, the enlargement of railway cars and 
locomotives, and the acquisition of adequate railway ter- 
minal facilities, which characterized railway management 
in the latter quarter of the 19th century, made railways for- 
midable rivals of the waterways of this State, which re- 
mained unimproved except as proposed under the act of 
1835, for nearly half a century. When it was found that 
the abolition of tolls did not save to the canals their com- 
merce and that improved railway facilities were drawing 
them increasing tonnage annually, Chambers of Commerce 
and canal advocates throughout the State took up the ques- 
tion of canal improvement upon a more extensive scale than 
ever undertaken, and sought the advice of engineers to 
determine what manner of improvement was best calculated 


to hold for the canals and the State its commerce. The 
matter of enlarging the locks of the canal had already been 
to some extent considered, first as a national project, and 
when it was determined that Federal appropriation could 
not be obtained, then as a matter of State undertaking. 

In his official report of 1878 State Engineer Horatio 
Seymour, Jr., proposed a plan of improvement to increase 
the depth of water to eight feet "by lowering the bottom in 
some places and raising the banks in other places" and 
thereby enable vessels of 300 tons capacity to navigate the 
canal. He also suggested the enlargement of the locks. 
This came to be known as the Seymour plan, which received 
much attention for several years. 

The improvement planned by ex-State Engineer Seymour 
involved the deepening of the Erie and Oswego canals to 
9 feet, the Charnplain canal to 7 feet and the lengthening of 
the remainder of the locks upon the Erie and Oswego canals 
to make them uniform with those theretofore enlarged. 

An organization, known as the Union for the Improve- 
ment of the Canals of the State of New York, was formed 
in 1885 and the Hon. Frank S. Gardner, Secretary of the 
Board of Trade and Transportation of New York, was 
made its secretary. That organization favored the improve- 
ments recommended by Horatio Seymour, Jr., and called 
upon friends of the canal throughout the State to unite upon 
that plan of improvement. The Union was opposed to the 
cession of the Erie canal to the General Government, and 
in its argument against such a proposition said: "The mo- 
ment that a State ceases to take care of her own canals and 
looks to Congress for the assumption of that duty, the work 
of decay sets in. There are canals at the west, in other 
parts of the country, that would be of great public utility 
today, if the communities that ought to support them had 
not been waiting and hoping against hope that Congress 
would relieve them of that responsibility." 1 

In the Senate on May 25, 1881, Senator Benjamin H. 
Williams of Buffalo, in advocacy of his bill for the erilargfe- 

1. See "Canal Improvement Document No. 3," N. Y. Board of Trade and 


ment and improvement of the Erie canal, said: "The bill 
under consideration is a measure intended to save the com- 
merce of the State by cheapening- the rates of transportation 
on the Erie canal, and it seeks to bring about that result by 
a reduction of the rates of carrying through an enlargement 
and improvement of that waterway." 

He proposed to enlarge the locks by making them 236 
feet in length and 26 feet in width, without any increase in 
depth, and to arrange them in two tiers. The bill also pro- 
vides for the deepening of the channel one foot and raising 
the banks two feet, thereby giving three feet additional 
depth of water. He estimated that "If the canal were en- 
larged as proposed it would admit of the passage of boats of 
one thousand tons burden, carrying thirty thousand bushels 
of grain," and that boats would undoubtedly be propelled 
by steam and that the carrying price of grain from BinWo 
to New York would be reduced at least one-half. This is 
singularly prophetic of the conclusions reached by the 
Roosevelt Commission, which recommended the improve- 
ment now in process of construction admitting of the pas- 
sage of boats carrying one thousand tons of freight. 

In 1884 the State Engineer, Elnathan Sweet, before the 
American Society of Civil Engineers, presented a plan for 
a ship canal from Lake Erie to the Hudson. The prism. was 
to be 100 feet wide on the bottom and 18 feet deep and the 
locks were to be 60 feet wide and 450 feet long. The route 
proposed was along the existing canal from Buffalo to the 
Clyde river, crossing the Seneca river on an embankment 
and aqueduct 50 feet high and thence along present align- 
ment to Syracuse and thence easterly to the Mohawk, which 
was to be canalized. The estimated cost was $150,000,000 
and the probable tonnage capacity 20,000,000 to 25,000,000 
tons annually. Prominent engineers took part in the discus- 
sion that followed. E. H. Walker opposed the proposed 
ship-canal "as being both too expensive and too slow." 
Thos. C. Keeper favored the transfer of lake cargoes at 
Buffalo to barges. 1 

1. See Proceedings Am. Soc. Civil Engineers, v. 14. 


In one of the documents issued by the Canal Union, dated 
May 25, 1885, referring to the condition of the New York- 
canals, they say : "Nothing of importance has been done in 
the way of improving our canals for twenty years, during 
which time the capacity of the Canadian canals has been 
trebled and numerous improvements have been made in 
every branch of railroad transportation." 

The Legislature passed a bill authorizing the construc- 
tion of an experimental lock at Geddes, which was a com- 
plete success, "doubling the lockage capacity of the canals 
and thereby greatly increasing their efficiency." x 

A canal improvement conference was called in the city 
of Utica on the 19th of August, 1885, over which ex-Gov- 
ernor Horatio Seymour was elected chairman, and there 
were present Hon. Edward Wemple, Hon. O. B. Potter, A. 
B. Miller, Esq., and other prominent canal advocates. On 
assuming the chair Governor Seymour called attention to 
the imperative duty of the State* to save its commerce by 
improving the waterways and thereby preventing the fur- 
ther diversion of canal traffic to railways. In the course of 
his speech, he said : "Forty-three years ago I was chairman 
of the Canal Committee. I was in favor of the canal system. 
It was then believed that the days of usefulness of the canals 
had passed 1 away. These men said that when the forests 
were cut off, the canals would not be as valuable as they had 
been previously. I was opposed to that view." 2 

On February 2, 1886, the Hon. Orlando B. Potter, one 
of the foremost of canal advocates of the State, upon invi- 
tation addressed the Joint Committee of the Senate and 
Assembly upon the subject of canal improvement without 
Federal aid. He called especial attention to the effects of 
canal transportation as a regulator of freight rates, and 
said : 

"As such regulators, the canals when properly improved and 
made efficient, as they will be by lengthening the locks and deepen- 
ing the channel as is now proposed, will repay to the State and its 

1. "Canal Improvement Doc. No. 4," N. Y. Bd. Trade and Transportation. 

2. "Canal Improvement Doc. No. u," N. Y. Bd. Trade and Transportation. 


population every year, in the cheaper cost of the necessaries of life 
and of the commodities used and consumed in the business, growth, 
and sustenance of the great towns and cities of the State to be served 
by them, nearly, if not quite, the entire cost of the expenditure re- 
quired for such improvement." 

On February 28, 1886, a bill was reported to the House 
of Representatives, appropriating $5,000,000 for the en- 
largement of the Erie and other canals of this State, which. 
was opposed by New York commercial bodies and it was 

In the session of the Legislature of 1886, a bill was in- 
troduced providing for an increase of the lockage capacity 
of the Erie and Oswego canals. A hearing was given on 
that bill by the Hon. David B. Hill, which was attended by 
representatives of the Union for .the Improvement of the 
Canals, and representatives of other commercial bodies 
from various parts of the State. Although this was de- 
signed to bring about the improvement then considered 
necessary, it was not approved and did not become a law. 

On August 25, 1886, a canal convention was held in 
Syracuse, consisting of delegates from various commercial 
bodies of the State, which was addressed by various gentle- 
men, among them Daniel Barnes, chairman of the delegates 
of the Maritime Association of the State Board of New 
York. In the course of his address, he said : 

"Why is it that ships which discharge in Boston and other ports 
along the coast, come to New York so often for outward business? 
It is because of the great influx to New York of exportable merchan- 
dise. The State of New York did a wise thing in making her canals 
free. Another wise thing for her to do is to remove all owners' port 
charges from these vessels that contribute so directly to the pros- 
perity of her industrious sons. We should invite and encourage this 
commerce which brings to us wealth from beyond the seas." 

The Syracuse convention, December 28, 1886, adopted 
resolutions recommending the lengthening of one tier of 
locks, so that they would be 220 feet long and not less than 
18 feet wide, and be equipped with such machinery and ap- 
pliances as in the judgment of the Superintendent of Public 


Works should render such locks most efficient. Accord- 
ingly, a bill was formulated and introduced in the Legisla- 
ture, in 1887, entitled "An act to facilitate State commerce 
by increasing the lockage capacity of the Erie canal and 
improving the Oswego and Champlain canals," and making 
an appropriation of $550,000 to carry forward those im- 

At the same session a bill was introduced, entitled "An 
act to protect the commerce on the canals of the State," 
known as Senate Bill No. 525 and Assembly Bill No. 570, 
the first section of which read as follows : 

"It shall not be lawful for any railroad corporation doing busi- 
ness in this State to make any written or other contract, or to allow 
any rebate or advantage for the shippers of freight over or on its 
road conditioned directly or indirectly that the owner, consignee, or 
any other person shall not ship or receive, as the case may be, any 
goods, merchandise or produce over or upon any canal owned by the 

Section 2 provided a fine of a thousand dollars for its 

That bill was introduced in response to resolutions pro- 
posed at the Syracuse convention on August 25, 1886, and 
referred to the executive committee of the Union for the 
Improvement of the Canals, consisting of Messrs. Orlando 
B. Potter, William H. Webb, A. B. Miller, John F. Henry, 
Frank S. Gardner, DeWitt C. Littlejohn, J. A. Hinds, 
George Clinton, Frank S. Witherbee, and Arthur W. Hick- 
man, all prominent canal advocates, and by that committee 
adopted on April 2, 1887. One of these resolutions read as 
follows : 

"That the attempt by railway corporations, deriving their char- 
ters and existence from the people of this State to intimidate and 
prevent shippers and citizens from the use of the canals, by unequal 
discriminations against them in freights upon the railways, is a most 
unjustifiable attack by such corporations upon the property rights 
and interests of the people of the State, by depriving them of the 
low freight which the canals are intended to secure, and increasing 
the cost to consumers of all commodities transported by the canals." 


The endorsement of the foregoing bill by this executive 
committee is the earliest, or one of the earliest declaration- 
against the practice of freight railway discriminations which 
was made in this country. 

The bill passed the Senate by a large majority vote, but 
failed to pass the Assembly for want of time, but was en- 
dorsed and its passage recommended at the next canal con- 

Among the complaints made to the Legislature was that 
of A. D. and R. D. Foot of Lowville against the Utica & 
Black River R. R. Co., in effect that 40 cents per hundred 
was charged for freight from Utica to Lowville, whereas 
the charges to other merchants were but 25 cents per hun- 
dred. Similar complaints were made by other shippers. 1 

The practice of discrimination in railway freights bv 
railway companies was so general that it led to an Act of 
Congress, entitled "An Act to regulate commerce," approved 
on February 4, 18S7, and applied to all common carriers en- 
gaged in the transportation of passengers or property, haul- 
ing by railroad, or partly by railroad and partly by water, 
when both are used, under a common control, for a continu- 
ous carriage or shipment from one State or Territory to an- 
other, or to an adjacent foreign country. 

Congress asserted its power to regulate commerce over 
the waters of a State when they constitute a highway for 
foreign and inter-state commerce. 

The Inter-State Commerce Commission, of which the 
Hon. Thomas M. Cooley was chairman, in its first report 
says : 

"A study of the act to regulate commerce has satisfied the mem- 
bers of the commission that it was intended in its passage to pre- 
serve for the people the benefits of competition as between the sev- 
eral transportation lines of the country. . . New York with its 
noble harbor, its central location, the Hudson river and the Erie 
canal for interior waterways, cannot be deprived of the benefits 
which spring from these great natural and acquired advantages, 
without all together eliminating competition as a force in transpor- 
tation charges by the exercise of sovereign legislative power, estab- 

1. See Senate Docs., 18S5, vol. 2, No. 8, part 1, pp. 107-109. 


lishing arbitrary rates over the whole country. ... In their com- 
petitive struggles with each other, towns cannot ignore the effect 
which the existence of natural waterways must have upon railroad 
taritts; the railroad companies cannot ignore it, nor can the com- 
mission ignore it, if competition is still to exist and be allowed its 
force according to natural laws. Neither can the great free Erie 
canal be ignored; it influences the rates to New York more than 
any other one cause, and indirectly, through its influence upon the 
rates to New York, it influences those to all other seaboard cities, 
and indeed to all that section of the country." 1 

On July 28, 1887, the third annual convention of the 
Union for the Improvement of the Canals of the State of 
New York was held in Rochester. It was addressed by 
Prof. O. F. Williams and Hon. De Witt C. Littlejohn, and 
presided over by the Hon. George Clinton of Buffalo, who 
was elected its permanent chairman. Mr. Gardner was 
again secretary. Mr. Clinton had served as chairman of the 
Canal Committee of the Assembly in 1884 and had been a 
close student of canal affairs in this State for many years. 
Mr. Clinton is the grandson of the illustrious DeWitt 
Clinton, and the natural successor in interest to all that per- 
tains to the betterment of the State's commercial facilities. 
It was but natural and proper that he should be chosen as 
president of the Rochester convention. In assuming the 
chair he said: "In order that the business of this conven- 
tion may proceed with expedition, I refrain from stating 
the reasons which make the improvement of the canals im- 
perative. They have often been stated and are familiar to 
yourselves and to the people at large ; they are founded 
on the immutable laws of political economy ; they have 
never been refuted and no respectable attempt to answer 
them has ever been made." 

On that occasion New York City was represented by its 
Board of Trade and Transportation, the Produce Exchange, 
the Maritime Association, the Boat Owners' Association, 
the New York Mercantile Exchange, and the Metal Ex- 
change. Buffalo was represented by the Merchants' Ex- 
change, the Business-men's Association and the Mayor's 

i. 1st an. rept. Inter-State Commerce Commission for 18S7, pp. 40, 41. 


Committee. Albany., Utica, Syracuse, Oswego, Rochester. 
Lockport and other towns were represented by their Boards 
of Trade, Chambers of Commerce, or other commercial or- 
ganizations ; and many of the smaller cities and villages of 
the State were also represented. Among the prominent 
delegates were Orlando B. Potter, Frank S. Gardner, Frank- 
lin Edson, Daniel Barnes, Esq., William E. Geary, John 
N. Drake, Hon. E. S. Frosser, Hon. Arthur W. Flickman, 
William Thurstone — many years secretary of the Board of 
Trade of Buffalo — and other well-known canal advocates of 
this State. This convention was addressed by several of 
its most prominent members and was so representative a 
body that it did much to formulate public sentiment and 
concentrate it upon the matter of canal improvement as it 
had not been before. It emphasized the importance of the 
enlargement of the locks and prism in some such manner 
as had been suggested by Horatio Seymour, Jr., or other- 
wise, to the end that the improvement would make the 
waterway more capacious and its lockage less dilatory than 

On December 30, 1SS7, a Canal Convention was held in 
Rochester, which adopted resolutions, among other things 
endorsing a bill entitled "An act to facilitate State com- 
merce by, increasing the lockage capacity of the Erie, and 
Oswego canals, and to improve the Oswego, Black River, 
Champlain, Cayuga and Seneca canals and the Seneca Lake 
level of the Chemung canal, by enlarging the locks as 
recommended in the legislation proposed by the preceding 
convention." The bill of 1887 having failed of passage, at 
the next session of the Legislature a bill was introduced 
carrying an appropriation of a million dollars to carry for- 
ward canal improvement in the manner proposed in the 
so-called Seymour plan. An executive committee was au- 
thorized and empowered to formulate bills to carry out the 
recommendations of the convention. The committee did not 
adjourn until it had adopted several other resolutions which 
had been submitted by a committee of which Mr. Littlejohn 
was chairman. The convention was one of the most im- 
portant that had been held in this State up to that time. 


In a letter sent out to representatives of the commercial 
bodies of the State in September, 1888, by the lion. George 
Clinton, president of the Union for the Improvement of 
the Canals, and the Hon. Orlando B. Potter, chairman of the 
Executive Committee, it is stated that : "In our State Legis- 
lature the proposition has been strenuously opposed by sec- 
tions of the State lying away from the line of the canal, on 
the plea that they are to be taxed without benefit to them- 
selves and for the good of the western producer and manu- 
facturer. Up to the present time, we have been successful 
and in three years appropriations for this object [improve- 
ments of locks and deepening of channel] have been made 
amounting in the aggregate to $1,340,000." 

The success attending the enlargement of lock 50 at the 
eastern end of the Jordan level was such that locks 47, 48, 
49, 51 and 52 were recommended' by the engineer in his re- 
port in 1885 for similar enlargement, and therefore in 1887 
appropriations for increasing the size of locks 31, 32, 33, 
34, 35, 44, 45 and 46; and also 53, 54,. 55, 5°, 60, 61, 62 
and 72, were recommended for enlargement. All these were 
completed before the opening of navigation in the year 1888 
except lock 46, which was not completed owing to litigation 
with the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad Com- 

An appropriation of $200,000 was made in 1888 for 
lengthening the remaining locks of the Erie canal, and locks 
2J, 28, 29, 30, 63, 64 were designated for enlargement, the 
appropriation being insufficient, however, to enlarge lock 26. 
The increased size of the locks necessitated an additional 
water supply and it was proposed to build storage reservoirs 
in the Adirondacks, at an estimated expense of $60,000 for 
that purpose. 

The tonnage on the canals was still large, and in the year 
1889 aggregated 5,370,363 tons. 

In 18S9 an additional sum of $10,144.61 was appro- 
priated to complete the lock improvements on the Erie canal. 
The Superintendent of Public Works was authorized to ex- 
pend certain money in his hands for deepening and cleaning 


out the canal which had been authorized the previous year, 
to a uniform depth of seven feet. 

At the close of navigation in 1889, 2J locks had been 
lengthened and seven were in process of enlargement, 
thereby enabling two canal boats without uncoupling to 
navigate 314 miles of the canal. In 1889 nearly one-third 
of the entire Erie canal had been ''bottomed out" under the 
direction of the Superintendent of Public Works. The en- 
larged locks required an increase in the amount of water 
necessary for lockages, which occasioned some anxiety with 
reference to the long, high levels of the canals. The fleets 
of two or three boats necessitated additional power, and it 
was found advantageous to employ triple teams in drawing 
them and that necessitated a widening of the tow-path to 
18 feet at a further expense to the State. 

In the literature relating to canal affairs appears a letter 
under date of February 29, 1888, from ex-Senator Roscoe 
Conklino- in which he says : 

"I believe in the maintenance, enlargement and freedom of this 
great artery of commerce for reasons too many to be stated in a 
brief letter. . . . Not only as a feeder, but as a regulator and safe- 
guard the canal is so needful that the day will be ill-starred when 
the people or legislature shall turn deaf ears or blind eyes to what- 
ever honest demands it makes on the State or its revenues." 

This well illustrates the intelligent sentiment of the fore- 
most citizens of the State in regard to its artificial water- 
ways, and was potential enough to impress the Legislature 
with the necessity of making appropriations from year to 
year for the enlargement of the locks and the "bottoming 
out" of the prism. 

Thirty-eight locks on the Erie were lengthened prior to 
1892, covering a distance of 323 miles. In 1891 an Assem- 
bly committee of seven was appointed to investigate "the 
management of canal affairs for the preceding eleven years." 

That committee made its report on February 24, 1892, in' 
which it found that "not a dollar had been unnecessarily 
appropriated or otherwise than carefully expended." 1 

t. See Assembly Doc. No. 57, 1892. 


In a speech by the Hon. Chauncey M. Depew, president 
of the New York Central & Hudson River Railroad Com- 
pany, reported in the Elmira Advertiser on October 24, 
1891, he is quoted as saying: 

"The canals compete with the roads with which I am connected 
at every point. That is true. The canals compel very low rates of 
transportation, lower than on any other railroad in the world. This 
is true. But the canals in their connection with the Great Lakes, 
these inland seas of our country, compel the commerce which floats 
upon those seas to find the port of Buffalo in the hope of getting 
through the canal to the seaboard. The surplus which the canal 
cannot carry comes to the railroads, and the prosperity which the 
canal and the lakes give to the State of New York in the promotion 
of their business comes in turn to the railway." 

In 1 89 1 a bill formulated by the Union for the Improve- 
ment of the Canals was introduced, calling for an appro- 
priation of $500,000 for lengthening the canal locks and 
deepening the canals in furtherance of a policy which had 
prevailed for several years of making annual appropriations 
for continuing the work of lock enlargement and canal 

When the bill was under consideration in the Senate, 
Senator John Laughlin of Buffalo made a carefully pre- 
pared speech on the subject, in the course of which he said : 

"Mr. Chairman, I wish to say that in view of the fact that the 
State holds in sacred trust all these surplus revenues of the Erie 
canal, and it is for the Erie canal that I plead upon this floor, that 
the State, which holds these millions upon millions of dollars in ex- 
cess of all that the canal has cost it to this very hour at which I 
speak, sliaH hereafter pursue a more liberal policy toward that canal, 
shall expand it, enlarge it, improve it and do everything that can 
add to its capacity to receive and transport through our borders the 
majority, the great bulk of the commerce of the country. It stands 
ready for us if we will only open our arms and receive it. No 
transportation known to civilization is as cheap as that by water, 
and if we will keep this canal open and free and unobstructed, and 
of sufficient capacity to receive and transport the commerce which 
will come to us by water from the West, we will continue the su- 
premacy of this State as it has acquired and held it since the canals 
were built." 


The bill passed the Senate, but failed to pass the As- 

Senator John Laughlin during his career in the Senate 
from iSvSS to 1891, and thereafter, was one of the ablest 
canal advocates in the State. He was preceded in the Sen- 
ate by the Hon. Daniel H. McMillan, an astute lawyer, who, 
on various occasions, was equally strong and forceful in his 
advocacy of canal measures. 

In the Senate and Assembly Journals from 1870 to 1900, 
the critical period of our canal history, may be found the 
record of canal advocates from various parts of the State, 
and notably the records of such senators from Erie county 
as Loran L. Lewis, John Ganson, Albert P. Laning, Sher- 
man S. Rogers, E. Carleton Sprague, James H. Loomis, 
Dr. Ray V. Pierce, Benjamin H. Williams, Robert C. Titus, 
Daniel H. McMillan, John Laughlin, Mathias Endres, Chas. 
Lamy, Henry H. Persons, Simon Seibert, George A. Davis, 
William F. Mackey and Samuel J. Ramsperger and others ; 
and such Assemblymen from Erie county as Edward Gal- 
lagher, Charles F. Tabor, Charles A. Orr, David F. Day, 
Harvey J. Hurd, Henry F. Allen, James Ash, James A. 
Roberts, Arthur W. Hickman, George Clinton, William 
M. Hawkins, W r illiam F. Sheehan, Henry H. Guenther, 
Edward K. Emery, Le Roy Andrus, Myron H. Clark, Cor- 
nelius Coughlin, J. L. Whittet, Philip Gerst, John K. Patton 
and others. 

These, or nearly all of these, were sentinels to watch and 
defend from hostile attack the canal policy of the State as 
expressed in memorials, petitions and legislative enactments. 
And in their advocacy of various canal measures that were 
presented from time to time involving many and divers 
questions in engineering, finance and economics, they voiced 
the intelligent sentiment of the people of the State in rela- 
tion to its commercial policy and rendered public service of 
a high order. 

New York and several other counties during this critical 
period were represented by senators and assemblymen fully 
alive to the commercial interests of the State and able and 
aggressive in the advocacy of all canal measures. United 


States senators and members of Congress from the State of 
New York, although unable to secure Federal appropria- 
tions, were nevertheless in accord with the predominant 
sentiment of the great commercial cities of the State, whose 
interests largely depended upon the cheap transportation 
afforded by the artificial and natural waterways of the State. 
Judging from my own five years' experience in the As- 
sembly and eight years' experience in the Senate, with a 
score or more of important canal statutory and constitutional 
measures, I can appreciate something of the demands made 
upon the members of the Senate and Assembly during the 
critical period of canal history and the efforts they were 
required to put forth to carry successfully through the Leg- 
islature canal measures against the well-nigh solid oppo- 
sition of the rural counties of the State and railroads. Their 
work was not for the immediate benefit of individuals, or 
of a temporal character, but for the public good and far- 
reaching in its scope, and, therefore, it was such as not to 
provoke popular applause. Its effect, however, on future 
generations will be enduring. 

XVIII. Some Conventions — The Canals and the 

To recur again to the narrative, it will be remembered 
that an important canal convention was called in the fall of 
1892 by the Union for the Improvement of the Canals of the 
State, of which the Hon. George Clinton of Buffalo was 
then president, Orlando B. Potter of New York chairman 
of the executive committee, and Robert H. Cook of White- 
hall, treasurer ; Frank S. Gardner of New York and Arthur 
W. Hickman of Buffalo, secretaries. 

In their formal call issued on that occasion is set forth 
the problems then confronting the people of the State and 
especially its commercial interests, requiring important con- 
sideration. It was stated that railway freight rates had 
been materially reduced by reason of the competitive influ- 
ence of canal rates, but that as soon as the canals were closed 
rail rates advanced and in some instances doubled. Special 


attention was called to the efforts of railroad managers to 
divert the traffic from the canals with a view of discrediting 
them as a means of transportation. An appeal was made 
for a State Canal Convention, to be held in the State prior 
to the approaching election ( which was held in Buffalo in 
October), with a view of determining the canal policy to be 
pursued thereafter and to formulate plans to secure neces- 
sary appropriations to carry on canal improvement, as the 
Canal Improvement bill which passed the Senate and As- 
sembly in 1892 had been vetoed by Governor Flower. That 
bill involved the Seymour plan of improvement and con- 
templated the lengthening of the locks and the deepening 
of the Erie and Oswego canals to nine feet, so that they 
would admit of navigation by boats carrying' fifty tons ad- 
ditional freight. 

Horatio Seymour estimated the cost of this improvement 
at $1,100,000. 

The Hon. Martin Schenck, State Engineer and Surveyor, 
in his report for 1892, advocated the making of a survey to 
determine the expense of increasing the depth of the water 
in the canal prism to nine feet, except at the aqueducts and 
locks. He also advocated the repairing of the principal 
aqueducts to insure their safety for navigation. He opposed 
the making of an appropriation by Congress of one hundred 
thousand dollars for a survey for a ship canal from the 
Hudson river to the Great Lakes on the ground that neither 
an ocean nor a lake steamer could pass through a canal three 
hundred miles long economically. He said further that "the 
practical canal of the future, connecting Lake Erie and the 
Hudson river ought to be one capable of bearing barges two 
hundred and fifty feet in length by twenty-five feet breadth 
of beam, of a draft not to exceed ten feet and of such a 
height that the great majority of bridges that should span 
this canal might be fixed structures instead of draw- 
bridges/' He estimated that such barges would carry fifty 
thousand bushels of wheat. This is said to be the first sug- 
gestion of the barge canal. 1 

:. Hist. N. Y. Canals, 345. 


it; :> report made to the House of Commons on June 23, 
tSS8, Mr. F. R. Condon states: "The Suez canal, which 
ought to take the traffic of the world, is positively choked 
with ten ships a day." Mr. W. W. Evans, states: "An- 
other point is the difficulty in traversing- curves with these 
long steamers; it is impossible to keep them from running 
into the banks, even when on straight lines, as many of them 
arc very cranky. On coming- through the Suez canal in 
1879 in one of the P. & O. steamers, 450 feet long, we had 
run about a mile on a straight line when the steamer got a 
sheer on her and away she went with her bows into the 
bank; the stern swung around and went into the other bank 
and there we stuck for more than an hour."' 

The Suez canal is about 90 miles long and for a portion 
of its length it extends through the Bitter lakes and other 
natural bodies of water; so that pro tanto reduces the arti- 
ficial waterway which is at sea level, and is a far less dif- 
ficult waterway for ocean-going" vessels to navigate than 
would be a ship canal, extending from the Great Lakes to 
the Hudson river, with a lockage variation of several hun- 
dred feet. 

The Legislature appropriated the sum of $75,000 in 1893 
to repair portions of the aqueducts. The same year there 
were appropriated various sums of money for improving the 
canals, its feeders, basins, dams, rebuilding walls and con- 
structing swing or lift bridges in various parts of the State. 

During the last decade petitions and memorials were pre- 
sented by the various commercial bodies of the State, to the 
Legislature, urging upon the Senate and Assembly the im- 
portance of making such appropriations as would carry for- 
ward the improvements hereinbefore mentioned. These 
documents furnish interesting literature on the subject and 
did much to keep alive interest in the subject of transporta- 
tion by water at a time when railway and other influences 
were antagonizing that method of transportation, openly 
and secretly whenever opportunity presented itself. In a 
communication addressed to the Hon. Evan Thomas, Presi- 
dent of the New York Produce Exchange, under date of 
December 4, 1893, from the Committee on Canals, consist- 


ing of G. W. Balch, R. H. Laimbeer, John P. Truesdel] 

Franklin Ouinbv and E. M. Clarkson, appears the following 
significant conclusion: 

"The canal exists, notwithstanding the assaults of half a genera- 
tion of open and covert enemies, simply because water transportation 
represents the unit of economy. This fact is being recognized by 
competitors, and there is hope in the future for more reasonable 
treatment of this great interest, not only from them, but from their 
proprietors the people, through legislative authority." 

The New York Produce Exchange on this and many sub- 
sequent occasions through its duly constituted committees, 
took an advanced stand on all canal measures and was one 
of the principal organizations most active in its advocacy 
of the thousand ton barge canal measure of 1903. 

In addition to the various canal conventions heretofore 
mentioned, an important State Canal convention was held 
February 25 and 26, 1S6S, for the purpose of securing re- 
form and improvement in the canal management, which for- 
mulated a memorial on the importance of inland navigation. 
which was supplemented by resolutions and other expres- 
sions of opinion of various boards of trade and popular 
meetings held at Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Utica, Al- 
bany and New York. 

In the memorial is found this important declaration : 

"As the canal system is, and should ever continue to be, the prop- 
erty of the people of the State of New York — as its practical value 
advances with the increasing demand for facilities of transportation 
between the Atlantic seaboard and the interior regions of our con- 
tinent — there is no subject connected with our material prosperity 
that should more fully command the consideration of citizens gen- 
erally, and of the Legislature in particular. Everything which can 
be consistently done to promote its efficiency, reacts powerfully en 
the prosperity of the community. The great advantages inseparable 
from the system of inland navigation that connects our State so 
closely with the vast lakes and their surrounding states and terri- 
tories, commend the canal system to increased attention, even in 
these days of stupendous railway achievement — for no possible im- 
provements in transportation can ever destroy the usefulness of our 
canals, if they are only managed with integrity and discretion ; and 


ihe more thoroughly the subject is considered, the more will the 
• < ipfe generally become impressed with the vast and growing im- 
, rtance oi the heritage thus secured to them through the enlight- 
rocd policy of such statesmen as Clinton and his compeers." 

lion. James P. Wallace of New York was elected presi- 
dent of this convention; Henry L. Fish, Abraham Hoffman, 
A. W. Hunter and others were vice-presidents; Henry 
O'Riellv, William Thurstone and others were secretaries. 

The New York City delegation comprised many of its 
then prominent men, most of whom are now passed away. 
The New York Produce Exchange, the boards of trade of 
Albany, Troy, Oswego, Rochester and Buffalo, and the 
smaller cities of the State, were all represented. In this 
memorial were presented the various phases of canal affairs 
as they then existed in this State. One of the difficulties 
then concerning the people was the method of canal main- 
tenance and canal repairs, which was then done under con- 
tract. In the preamble and resolutions presented by Mr. 
A. M. Clapp of Buffalo, chairman of the committee on reso- 
lutions, may be found the following : 

"Resolved, That we regard the present contract system of keep- 
ing the canals of the State in repair as entirely subversive of the in- 
terests of the State and of those engaged in canal commerce, and 
subservient alone to the advantage and profits of the contractors; 
as detrimental to the welfare of commerce, and ruinous alike to the 
canals and their interests, and to those who have invested their en- 
terprise and capital in the transportation of property through these 
channels of communication; and we, therefore, call upon the Legis- 
lature of the State, to repeal the laws under which the State canals 
are kept in repair by contract, and to enact others which shall pro- 
vide for their repair by superintendents, or some other responsible 
agents, so that they may be kept in a navigable condition during the 
season of navigation, and rendered available to the demands and in- 
terests of commerce/' 

Other evils were referred to in these resolutions and other 
resolutions were offered by such well-known canal advocates 
as M. M. Caleb of New York, Henry L. Fish of Rochester, 
Hiram Niles of Buffalo and others. An elaborate banquet 
was given by the Albany Board of Trade and the Lumber- 


dealers' Association at the Delavan House on the evcnii 
of February 26th, to the 200 delegates to the canal converi 
tion, comprising- distinguished citizens from all parts of th 
State. Addresses were made by Hon. James P. Wallace ■ . 
New York, Senator Asher P. Nichols of Buffalo, H ••: 
De Witt C. Littlejohn of Oswego, Hon. Martin I. Town- 
send of Troy, Hon. David Mitchell of Syracuse, Hon 
Homer A. Nelson, Secretary of State, Hon. A. M. Clapp of 
Buffalo, Lt.-Gov. Stewart L. Woodford of New York, 
Henry Smith, Esq., Hon. Chauncev M. Depew, and Hon. 
Henry O'Rielly of New York. 

The membership of that convention comprised many dis- 
tinguished citizens from the cities and State at large and 
gave time and careful consideration to the pending canal 
questions of great interest to the State. 

In the memorial prepared by this convention to the Legis- 
lature, was a protest against the policy of maintaining a 
partnership between the State and private parties, concern- 
ing- water needed for canal purposes, and a recommendation 
for a revision of the rates of toll upon property intended for 
transit on the canals, so as to retain the trade and prevent 
diversion. There was also a recommendation to make it 
imperative on the part of the State to maintain the lawful 
depth of water in the various canals of the State. This con- 
vention was one of the most important ever held. It served 
a most salutary purpose at a time when the management of 
canal affairs was most extravagant, if not reckless, and there 
was imperative need of reform. 

At the meeting of the Constitutional Convention of 1894 
canal affairs were in a rather unpromising condition. Sev- 
eral amendments were proposed to the Constitution in rela- 
tion to the canal article by members of that convention. 
Some of these amendments proposed a lease or sale of the 
canals, and others contemplated their transfer to the United 
States Government. Still others were designed to impose 
limitations upon the expenditure of moneys for their main- 
tenance and repairs and were designed further to restrict the 
powers of the Legislature with reference to canal appro- 


One amendment excepted the Main and Hamburg- canal, 
in the city of Buffalo, from the Constitutional inhibition 
against the sale of the canals of the State. This amend- 
ment was finally favorably reported and adopted, and there- 
after the Main and Hamburg canal in the city of Buffalo 
was deeded by the State to the city of Buffalo and closed up. 
For several years prior thereto it had ceased to be operated 
as a canal and had been a menace to the health of the people 
in the vicinity. It had been repeatedly condemned by the 
local and State boards of health as a public nuisance. 

In the convention of 1894 little consideration was given 
to the financial policy of the State in formulating the canal 
article. The existing fiscal provisions of the Constitution 
had been largely formulated by the convention of 1846 and 
in some respects had been amended in 1874 and in 1882 and 
1883, and did not then appear to require radical amendment 
except as proposed in the new section 10 of article 7 of the 

The evolution of the fiscal policy of the State in relation 
to public improvements was briefly as follows : During the 
legislative session of 1838, Assemblyman Chas. B. Ruggles 
of the Committee of Ways and Means made a comprehen- 
sive report to the Legislature proposing an outline of a new 
fiscal policy with reference to carrying forward internal im- 
provements by borrowing ''such moneys as are needed for 
prosecuting most vigilantly its [the State's] public works 
and in lieu of appropriating the revenue only of the present 
canals for the purpose of making such expenditures as the 
interests of our citizens require and that the State should 
retain that revenue as a sinking fund to pay the interest of 
all moneys it may borrow from time to time to prosecute 
and perfect a liberal system of internal improvement." This 
plan was adopted by the Legislature and the Commissioners 
of the Canal Fund were directed to borrow four millions of 
dollars, which were appropriated towards the enlargement 
of the Erie canal; the interest until otherwise directed, to 
be paid out of the canal revenue. 1 

1. See Chap. 269, Laws of 1838. 


This policy prevailed until the enactment of Chapter 114 
of the Laws of 1842, "to provide for paying the public debt 
and preserving- the credit of the State," and a tax of one 
mill on a dollar of the assessable property of the State was 
thereby imposed. The act also provided for temporary loans 
to pay arrearages due contractors and for preserving the 
unfinished work; and expenditures on the canals were to 
cease, except as they might be required' to complete unfin- 
ished' jobs and secure the navigation of the canals, and was 
denominated "the Stop Act." 1 Prior to 1838 the financial 
policy was to apply the surplus canal revenues to the prose- 
cution of canal enlargement as fast as the funds thus applied 
were available. 

The provisions of Chapter 269 of the Laws of 1838 in- 
augurated a new policy whereby the revenues were to be 
applied to the payment of interest and the extinguishment 
of principal of moneys, which were authorized to be bor- 
rowed and for that purpose sinking funds were created. 

This is a summary of the principal statutory provisions 
relating to canals as they existed at the time of the Consti- 
tutional Convention of 1846. In that convention, the Hon. 
Michael Hoffman of Herkimer county, chairman of the com- 
mittee on finance, submitted two reports. 2 In the first of 
these reports was proposed a new article, consisting of 
seven sections in relation to "the existing debts and liabilities 
of the State and to provide for the payment thereof," and 
in the second report w r as proposed another new article, con- 
sisting of seven sections in relation to "the power to create 
future State debts and liabilities, and in restraint thereof." 

This was the earliest effort that had been made to embody 
in the Constitution itself a financial scheme, and it gave rise 
to a long and spirited debate which was participated in by 
Genl. James Tallmadge, Charles P. Kirkland, Horatio J. 
Stow, Samuel J. Tilden, Charles O'Connor, Alvah Worden, 
Lemuel Stetson, Richard P. Marvin, John Leslie Russell 
and others. This discussion was able and as animated .as 
that which had engaged the House of Commons over the 

See Chap. 78, Laws of 1844. 

See 2 Docs, of Convention of 1846, Nos. 64 and 65. 


government measure introduced by Sir Robert Peel for the 
repeal of the Corn Laws, and passed a few days prior to the 
opening of the convention. Both discussions involved the 
consideration of important economic questions and were 
conducted on the plane of broad statesmanship. 

Some of the sections, as originally proposed by the com- 
mittee on finance, after mature consideration w T ere amended, 
with the consent of Mr. Hoffman, upon whom the burden 
largely rested of carrying the proposed amendments through 
the convention, and they together formed the new Article 
VII of the Constitution of 1846. 

The Court of Appeals, in the case of Newell against the 
People, 1 had considered in extenso the several sections of 
article 7 of the Constitution as formulated by the conven- 
tion of 1846, which declared the policy and procedure for 
the creation and liquidation of canal debts and the purposes 
to which canal revenues were to be applied. The Consti- 
tutional convention of 1867 also considered the matter at 
great length and made some recommendations, all of which 
were disapproved by the people at the general election at 
which they were submitted for ratification. 

The Constitutional Commission of 1872 and 1873 P r<> ~ 
posed amendments to certain sections of article 7 of the 
Constitution and some of these were approved at the general 
election in 1874. Other sections of the canal article were 
amended in 1882 and 1883. 

The paramount canal question in the convention of 1894 
was not so much one of finance as it was one of policy 
which the State would thereafter pursue toward its artificial 
waterways. Theretofore the administration had been un- 
settled, the appropriations uncertain, and' no well-defined 
policy had been determined upon. Canal improvement had 
theretofore gone on at "a sluggish rate," it was said. The 
time had now come when it must be decided whether or not 
canal improvement should go forward and the Constitution 
be amended to permit that to be done, or whether the canal 
system should be suffered to fall into decay and eventually 

1. Reported in 7 N. Y. pp. 9-140. 


abandoned- Notwithstanding- the occasional annual appro- 
priations and enlargement of some locks, there was no ques- 
tion in the minds of those familiar with existing conditions 
but that the system was retrograding rather than being ad- 
vanced, and it would only require a short time to complete 
the abandonment. Accordingly canal advocates in the con- 
vention of 1894 addressed themselves to the importance of 
the canal system to the State and the necessity of making 
provision for radical improvement by so amending the Con- 
stitution as to permit the Legislature to determine the char- 
acter of the improvement and to provide under the existing 
constitutional sections for raising the necessary funds for 
that purpose. 

Various phases of the canal question were considered in 
the Constitutional Convention of 1894. Long and cogent 
arguments were made by such able men as Hon. George 
Clinton and others, before the Canal Committee of that con- 
vention, of which Judge J. Rider Cady of Hudson was 
chairman. The debates in the convention were spirited and. 
reflected the sentiment of the people throughout the State 
on this important matter which had engrossed the public 
attention for nearly a century. In the Revised Record of 
the Constitutional Convention of 1894 may be found the 
debates which occurred on the various proposed amend- 
ments during the sessions of that body. 

All the amendments originally proposed to the Canal 
Article of the Constitution, except that relating to the sale 
of the Main and Hamburg canal of the city of Buffalo, were 
either unreported or voted down during the evening session 
held on September 10, 1894. On the following morning, at 
a conference of the Republican members of the convention, 
held in the Assembly Parlor, I secured a caucus rule to the 
effect that all adverse action theretofore had in the conven- 
tion, be reconsidered and the whole matter of canal improve- 
ment be again committed to the committee on canals. Ac- 
cordingly, Judge Cady, chairman of the canal committee, 
on the morning of September nth, rose in the convention 
and stated: 


"Mr. President — In the hope that after the experience of 
yesterday some resolution of the much debated canal im- 
provement question may be arrived 1 at that will be satisfac- 
tory to a majority of this convention, I move that the vote 
of this convention taken last evening, by which the report of 
the committee of the whole on the canal amendments was 
disagreed, be reconsidered." 

The President put the question on the motion of Mr. 
Cady and it was determined in the affirmative. Thereupon 
all the proposed amendments were referred back to the canal 
committee. 1 

It was apparent that canal advocates in various parts of 
the State who had entertained diverse opinions with refer- 
ence to what ought to be done in furtherance of canal im- 
provement must harmonize their views and agree upon a 
common plan of action. There were those who theretofore 
insisted on inserting in the Constitution' itself an appropria- 
tion of from eighteen to twenty million dollars for canal 
improvement. Others had contended that the Constitution 
ought to be so amended as to enable the Legislature to make 
whatever appropriations it might find necessary to carry 
forward canal improvement as should thereafter be deter- 
mined. This latter view was finally embodied in a proposed 
amendment, agreed upon by Judge Cady, Judge Chester B. 
McLaughlin, who was a delegate from the Twenty-first 
Senatorial district, and myself, after a conference with some 
of the leading canal advocates of the State, including Capt. 
William E. Geary, Daniel A. Cooney and others and it is 
now Section 10 of Article 7 of the Revised Constitution of 
1894, and reads as follows : 

"The canals may be improved in such manner as the Legislature 
shall provide by law. A debt may be authorized for that purpose 
in the mode prescribed by Section 4 of this article, or the cost of 
such improvement may be defrayed by the appropriation of funds 
from the State treasury or by equitable annual tax." 

This amendment gave rise to further debate, but was 
finally adopted by the affirmative vote of 89 members, one 

1. Vol. iv, Revised Record of the Constitutional Convention of 1894, p. 355. 


more than was requisite to secure its passage in the conven- 
tion. Most of the delegates from the eastern and from some 
of the central and western counties of the State, spoke and 
voted in favor of measures proposed to enable canal im- 
provement to be carried on, while most of the delegates from 
other counties were arrayed against them. 

The canal article was finally submitted separately from 
the other proposed constitutional amendments to the people 
for their approval at the general election m 1894. The 
friends of the measure and commercial bodies throughout 
the State urged its approval and it was ratified by a majority 
of 115,353 affirmative votes, which was a larger majority 
than was given to any other amendment submitted at that 
time. This vote was reassuring to canal advocates through- 
out the State and they lost no time in preparing a measure 
which was introduced by Mr. Edward M. Clarkson in the 
Assembly on January 9, 1895, providing for the issuing of 
bonds not exceeding nine million dollars in amount for the 
improvement of the Erie, Champlain and Oswego canals, 
and providing for the submission of that measure to a vote 
of the people at the general election in the year 1895. This 
bill passed the Assembly on January 19th and the Senate 
on February 21st, and with the approval of the Governor 
became a law on March 9, 1895. The bonds were to bear 
not to exceed 4 per cent, interest and to run for not more 
than 17 years. 

The improvement contemplated consisted in the deepen- 
ing of the Erie to not less than nine feet, except over aque- 
ducts, mitre sills, and other permanent structures where 
there was to be eight feet of water, and except in the case 
of the Champlain canal where the depth was to be seven 
feet. Such locks as had not theretofore been lengthened 
were to be lengthened and made of the same dimensions as 
those already enlarged. Vertical stone walls were to be 
constructed and the aqueducts and bridges rebuilt where 
necessary. This measure was approved at the general elec- 
tion held in the fall of 1895. 

The plan of improvement was that commonly known as 
the Seymour plan. 


The report of the Canal Commission appointed by the 
Governor in 1898, of which the Hon. George Clinton was 
chairman, states: 

"At the time the Act of 1895 was passed a considerable improve- 
ment of a portion of the canal had been made. Many locks on the 
Erie canal and some on the Oswego canal had been lengthened. 
Upon the Champlain canal deepening to the seven-foot standard had 
been accomplished in some places and the mitre sills of the locks 
adapted to the requirements of the improvement. . . . The work 
upon the Oswego canal was of a peculiar nature, consisting almost 
entirely of race dams and improving and canalizing the Seneca and 
Oswego rivers. . . . Before the convening of the Constitutional 
Convention in 1894, it was the general impression founded on no 
definite estimate that to deepen the canals and lengthen the locks 
would cost from seven to nine million dollars. That convention 
asked for an estimate. The State Engineer and Surveyor furnished- 
one; the figures given by him were $11,573,000. This estimate was 
very defective. It had to be made in a few days without opportunity 
to make surveys and without sufficient data in the records to give 
any accuracy to the estimate. It was merely the best guess which 
the State Engineer could give, based upon such facts as he had at 
hand. . . . At the commencement of the work under the Act of 
1895, the State Engineer's Department made an estimate based upon 
their preliminary surveys, which resulted in figures that in 1896 
showed plainly that the cost would be at least $13,500,000, without 
any provision for engineering expenses, advertising, or inspection. 
These estimates the department at once proceeded to cut down with 
the idea that they might bring the expense within nine million dol- 
lars. This should not have been done. ... As the work progressed 
it became plain that all prior estimates were too small and another 
one was prepared. This amounted to about $16,000,000, . . . and 
was made public through a letter from the State Engineer to Mr. 
Heflord of Buffalo. . . . Thus it finally appeared that seven million 
dollars more would be needed to complete the improvement; and 
now upon further investigation, based on figures furnished by the 
same official, it is apparent that a much larger sum will be neces- 
sary." 1 

The report proceeds to give further information in regard 
to the improvement undertaken in 1896 and to show that the 

1. Report of Canal Commissioners appointed by the Governor; Chap. 15, 
Laws of 1898, as amended by Chap. 327, Laws of 1S98. 


appropriation was wholly inadequate to carry out the so- 
called Seymour plan. Prior to the appointment of such 
commission, all work under the nine-million dollar referen- 
dum measure was stopped by legislative enactment; con- 
tracts were closed and adjustments made with the con- 
tractors. The improvements were never completed and 
were the occasion of charges of fraud and misappropriation 
of funds, which led to the appointment of the investigating 
commission, with the results hereinbefore stated. 

In the communication addressed to Robert R. HefTord, 
chairman of the Executive Canal Committee, Buffalo, 
N. Y., under date of December 22 ,1897, the State Engineer 
and Surveyor and Superintendent of Public Works sum- 
marize the salient points of the statement made by them in 
answer to the charges against them as follows : 

1. That no surveys for such an improvement of the canals as is 
now under way had ever been made up to 1896. 

2. That the estimated cost of this improvement, as submitted to 
the Constitutional Convention in 1894, was prepared in twelve days, 
and was, therefore, well known and stated to be practically mere 
guess work. 

3. That the careful surveys and estimates when made in 1896 
from a thorough examination of the 454 miles of canals to be im- 
proved showed that the probable cost of such improvement was 
about $16,000,000. 

4. That an unsuccessful effort was then made to cut out work 
to bring the cost within the appropriated $9,000,000. 

5. That the impossibility of using a large portion of the exca- 
vated material for use on the banks of the canals as originally con- 
templated very greatly increased the cost. 

6. That during the progress of the work of excavation the un- 
preventable caving in of dilapidated and toppling walls and struc- 
tures necessitated new constructions and increased quantities at large 
additional expense. 

7. That contracts have been already let for the completion of 
about two-thirds of the proposed improvement, which portion it is 
expected will have been completed at the opening of navigation in 
1898. The estimated cost at contract prices of this two-thirds of 
the work aggregates $7,121,812, though this covers two-thirds of the 
length and not the volume of the whole work. 


8. The contracts already let cover what are believed to be the 
most difficult portions of the proposed improvement. 

9. That proximately seven millions of dollars additional will be 
required to complete the improvement. 

10. That with that sum available we believe the entire improve- 
ment can probably be completed at the opening of navigation in 1899. 

11. That the progress made to date has been as rapid as was 
consistent with other conditions and that the whole work might 
have been under contract now, had sufficient funds been available. 

12. The contractors are required by law to bid upon a definite 
character and quantity of work and that they are finally paid for the 
actual amount of work performed at the contract prices. Under 
this plan the State always pays for the work actually done for it — 
no more, no less. 

What steps shall be taken to complete the work must of course 
be determined by the Legislature, but that its prompt completion on 
the lines on which it is begun is a necessary, wise and expedient 
undertaking, can not be gainsaid. 

From this and the Clinton Report it will be seen that it 
was impossible for the State Engineer and Surveyor from 
data in his office to certify to the Constitutional Convention 
of 1894, the cost of the improvement authorized by the Ref- 
erendum Measure of 1895. 

XIX. Enlargement Measures — The Ship Canal 

During the legislative session of 1898, before the appoint- 
ment of the Clinton Commission and after the letter from 
the State Engineer and Surveyor to Robert R. Hefford had 
been made public, in which it was stated' that it required 
seven million dollars more to complete the improvement 
under the Seymour plan, Senator Jacob A. Cantor in the 
Senate, and I, in the Assembly, introduced what is known 
as the Seven Million Dollar Referendum Measure, designed 
to provide for the issuing of bonds to that amount to com- 
plete the improvement undertaken under the nine million 
dollar referendum measure. The bill was introduced con- 
currently in the Senote and Assembly and shortly thereafter 
a counter proposition was introduced by Senator Frank D. 


Pavey, of New York, in the form of a resolution, designed 
to turn over the canals to the Federal Government. 

The resolution proposed to amend Section 8 of Article 7 
of the Constitution by providing that the prohibition against 
the sale, lease or other disposal of the canals of the State 
should not apply '''to the sale, lease or other disposition of 
said canals or either of them to the United States Govern- 
ment, upon such terms as might be mutually agreed upon, 
and upon the express condition that the United States shall 
improve, maintain and operate the same as a free public 
waterway, and, in case of failure by the United States so to 
do, that the said canals or either of them, together with all 
improvements made thereon shall revert to and again be- 
come the property of the State of New York.'" 1 

This was not a new proposition. As early as 1808 a joint 
legislative committee had been appointed to consider the 
propriety of making a survey for a canal between the Hud- 
son river and Lake Erie, "to the end that Congress may be 
enabled to appropriate such sums of money as may be 
necessary to the accomplishment of that great national 
object." 2 That committee reported by resolution, which 
was adopted, directing the Surveyor-General to make accu- 
rate surveys and charts and to transmit a copy of the same 
to the President of the United States. 

On April 8, 181 1, an Act was proposed, authorizing the 
appointment of commissioners who were empowered to 
make application to the Congress of the United States and 
to the legislatures of the various states, to cooperate in pro- 
viding for the improvement of the internal navigation of the 
State. 5 The commissioners made application to the Presi- 
dent and to the Congress of the United States, and to the 
different states and territories. 4 A bill was prepared for 
a general system of internal improvements in various states 
and granting 4,000,000 acres of lands in Michigan and In- 
diana territories to the State of New York, as soon as the 

1. See Senate Journal, 1898, vol. 2., p. 1241. 

2. 1 N. Y. Canal Laws, 7, 8. 

3. lb. 70. 

4. lb. 88, 89. 


Erie canal should be open. The New York sub-committee 
presented the matter to Congress which at first appeared to 
view it with favor, but it was thereafter disapproved and 
the committee made its report on March 14, 1812, back to 
the Legislature of New York as follows : 

"These men console themselves with the hope that the envied 
State of New York will continue a supplicant for the favor and a 
dependent on the generosity of the Union, instead of making a manly 
and dignified appeal to her own power. It remains to be proved, 
whether they judge justly who judge so meanly of our councils." 1 

On April 17, 1816, another act was passed "to provide 
for the improvement of the internal navigation of the State." 
Commissioners were appointed thereunder and authorized 
to explore the route, estimate the expense and make appli- 
cation for aid to the Government of the United States and 
to the various states and territories, and also to individuals. - 

Thereafter, on February 15, 1817, these commissioners 
made their report in which they say that they applied "to 
the United States and to the States of Vermont, Kentucky 
and Ohio as having a common interest with New York in 
the contemplated canal, and where they feel persuaded that 
a favorable disposition exists." "But if no extraneous aid 
should be offered, it will be at all times in the power of this 
State to levy high transient duties on the articles transported 
to and from those states and the territories of the United 
States, and thereby secure, eventually, a greater fund than 
can possibly arise from those quarters." 3 That committee 
made its report on March 17, 1817, and among other things 
states that "the Legislature of Ohio pledges an effective 
cooperation in the construction of the canal," and that "ad- 
ditional aid may be expected from other states in the West," 
and that they might confidently look for help from the Gov- 
ernment of the United States. 4 

In the preamble of the Canal Act, passed on April 18, 
1816, may be found this recital, that this act is proposed "in 














full confidence that the Congress of the United States and 
the states equally interested with this State in the com- 
mencement, prosecution and completion of those proposed 
works, will contribute their full proportion of the expense." 1 
In 1835 A. B. Johnson of Utica presented to Charles 
Humphrey, Speaker of the Assembly, a formal communica- 
tion in favor of a ship canal from Lake Ontario, through 
Oneida lake and the Mohawk river to the Hudson river, of 
the following tenor : 

"The inhabitants of this city (Utica) held a large public meeting 
on the 12th inst, and agreeably to a duty then enjoined on me, I 
have the honor to transmit you the proceedings of that meeting, 
and also a very elaborate report and survey and estimate, with maps 
made by Edwin F. Johnson, Esq., Civil Engineer, of a proposed 
ship canal from Lake Ontario to the Hudson. The present survey 
extends only to Utica. The survey was made at an expense of 
$1,000, and by the exertions of a committee which was constituted 
at a State convention of delegates held at Utica last fall. Of the 
report of the engineer I can speak with confidence that it is highly 
deserving of examination, and solicit this for it from the Legisla- 
ture, with such further action as they shall deem proper." 2 

This is one of the earliest proposals for a ship canal from 
the Great Lakes to the sea. In the proceedings had in the 
city of Utica, over which Mayor Joseph Kirkland presided, 
was presented a report setting forth the reasons for such a 
waterway. After describing the success attending steamboat 
navigation of the Hudson river, the report proceeds as fol- 
lows : "Looking then at the immense inland lakes and at 
the fertile territory of which they are the center, and at the 
restless industry and enterprise of our citizens, we may 
safely predict that the lakes are to become the scenes of 
mightier inland commerce than the world ever before wit- 
nessed." There are many other interesting statements in 
this historic report, such as the following : 

"Your memorialists would not undervalue the great benefit which 
the Erie canal has conferred and is conferring upon the State, nor 

1. lb. 358. 

2. See Assembly Docs., Feb. 13, 1835. 


would they advocate any measure calculated to bring it into disuse, 
or which would look even prospectively to its discontinuance. It 
possesses the important advantages of security in time of war; of 
forming' a part of a chain of communication with the Susquehanna 
valley; and will, whether the work now recommended is executed 
or not, from an important medium of communication with the West." 

From this may be seen something of the enterprise of the 
people of the interior of the State within ten years after the 
completion of the Erie canal, in proposing- the construction 
of a ship canarfrom Lake Ontario to the Hudson river. It 
must be borne in mind that their conception of a ship canal 
was far different from our conception of such a canal, which 
would be adequate to accommodate vessels 600 to 700 feet 
in length, drawing 20 to 30 feet of water, with a beam width 
from 45 to 65 feet, and with a carrying capacity of from 
7,000 to 15,000 tons of freight. 

I have already spoken of the efforts made by the State of 
New York during the Civil War to enlarge the Giamplain 
and Erie canals to a capacity sufficient to accommodate the 
passage of gunboats and other naval vessels to the Great 
Lakes for their defense against attack from Canada. 1 In 
1882 Representative Jonathan Scoville of the 32nd Con- 
gressional District, presented a bill in Congress for the pur- 
chase and management of the Erie canal by the National 
Government. A committee was appointed to consider the 
question of the cession of the canal properties of the State 
to the National Government. In 1884 Congressman Edward 
Wemple, from the committee on railways and canals, sub- 
mitted a report of that committee on a bill to provide for 
the permanent improvement of the Erie canal and to aid in 
maintaining the same free to the commerce of the United 
States, which carried a provision for the payment to the 
State of New York of a million dollars a year for ten years, 
to be expended in enlarging the Erie canal. That bill, how- 
ever, like the preceding one, failed to receive congressional 

1. The resolutions referring to these matters may be found in Senate 
Docs, for 1863, No. no, pp. u, 12, and appendix; and in the report of 
Saml. B. Ruggles, who had been appointed by Gov. Morgan to present the mat- 
ter to the President and Congress. 


In a ds?cussion at the convention of the American Society 
of Civil Engineers, June 25, 1885, Elmer L. Corthell, after- 
wards one of the Advisory Board of Canal Engineers, 
maintained that the period of canal construction and useful- 
ness was passing and that railways were to be the future 
and principal means of transportation. In this discussion 
he took issue with the position taken by Elnathan Sweet, 
who recommended a radical enlargement of the Erie canal. 
Mr. Corthell cites several instances of the abandonment of 
the canals in this and other countries and of the construction 
of railways as a means of general transportation. This dis- 
cussion is valuable from a railway point of view, but had 
little deterrent effect upon the onward movement in canal 
construction in this and other states. 

Mr. Sweet was much more in accord with the progressive 
spirit of the age and among the closing paragraphs of his 
paper are the following significant statements : 

"If our national prosperity is to continue, we must reach foreign 
markets with our manufactures, and thus, by increasing the manu- 
facturing class, create new home demands for our surplus food. 

"To reach these markets we must cheapen the goods by lessening 
the cost of living to the operatives, and also the cost of bringing 
together the raw materials requisite to manufacturing processes, and 
of sending the manufactured products to market. 

"With our widespread territory, cheap transportation is the chief 
agency in effecting these economies, and the Erie canal, joining the 
granaries, the mines and the forests of the West, with the manufac- 
tories of the East, should be endowed with the necessary capacity to 
effectually realize the ideal of the political economist as to transpor- 

In January, 1886, Representative John B. Weber of 
Buffalo introduced a bill in Congress for the permanent im- 
provement of the Erie and Oswego canals, and to procure 
their freedom to the commerce of the United States. That 
bill provided for the payment of five millions of dollars to 
the State of New York on condition that the canals be main- 
tained free to the commerce of the United States. The bill 
was reported favorably on February 23, 1886, but failed of 
passage, although a resolution, introduced by Senator 


Daniel II. McMillan of Buffalo, in the State Senate calling 
upon the senators and members of Congress from the State 
of New York to support the Weber bill, was favorably re- 
ported by the Senate and Assembly Canal Committees on 
February 2, 1886. 1 

In the Constitutional Convention of 1894, Hon. John T. 
McDonough of Albany offered an amendment to the Consti- 
tution, authorizing the Legislature to sell or dispose of the 
canals of the State to the United States Government, and a 
similar resolution was introduced by Thomas G. Alvord of 
Syracuse. 2 

In his annual message to the Legislature of 1895, Gov- 
ernor Levi P. Morton said: 

"The improvement and administration of the State canals should 
command most careful and enlightened attention at the present ses- 
sion. Since the inception of that great enterprise, the Erie canal, 
more than three-quarters of a century ago, the people of this State 
have continually recognized the impetus it has given to the general 
progress and commercial prosperity of the Commonwealth. It has 
been a prime factor in the establishment and maintenance of the 
commercial eminence of the port of New York." 

After discussing the cost of railway and canal transpor- 
tation, he continues : 

"It is my duty to emphasize the lesson which these figures teach, 
and to urge upon you the importance of prompt and statesman-like 
action in providing for the improvement of the canals and their ad- 
ministration upon a sound basis, unmixed with political or other 
subordinate purposes and policies." 

On January 21, 1895, Senator Frank W. Higgins offered 
a resolution requesting the senators and members of Con- 
gress of the State of New York to apply to Congress for an 
annual appropriation to the State of New York for a sum 
equal to three fourths of the amount expended by the State 
in the maintenance of its canal system. 3 

In 1872 a select committee of the Senate of the United 
States was appointed to make recommendation to effect 

1. See N. Y. Senate Journal for 1886, p. 159. 

2. See Revised Record, Constitutional Convention, 1894, pp. 67, 349. 

3. N. Y. Senate Docs, for 1895, No. 17. 


water communication between the Great Lakes and the 
Hudson river. That committee made its report in 1874, and 
suggested "the enlargement and improvement, with the con- 
currence of the State of New York, of one or more of the 
three water-routes from the Lakes to New York City, 
namely: The Erie canal from Buffalo to Albany; the 
Oneida Lake canal from Oswego to Albany ; or the Cham- 
plain canal from Lake Champlain to deep water on the 
Hudson river, including such connection as may be effected 
between Lake Champlain and the Saint Lawrence river with 
the cooperation of the British Provinces, at an estimated 
cost of $I2,OOO,O0O." 1 

Applications other than the foregoing were made by the 
State of New York to the Federal Government at various 
times for Federal aid in the construction of its canal system 
from the Great Lakes to the seaboard, but all without avail. 
Canal advocates familiar with this history were strongly 
opposed to the Pavey resolution which had been reported 
favorably by the Judiciary Committee of the Senate and 
advanced to the order of third reading. Meetings were held 
m the city of New York and elsewhere in the State, at 
which public sentiment found expression in speech and 
resolution, as it did through the press, in strong opposition 
to the Pavey resolution. At one of these midday meetings 
held under the auspices of the Merchants' Association of 
New York, at No. 346 Broadway, March 26, 189S, repre- 
senting 160 different lines of trade and industry and several 
hundred business firms in the city and State of New York, 
William F. King, President of the Merchants' Association, 
Senator Jacob A. Cantor, of New York, and myself, then 
a member of Assembly, spoke at length against transfer- 
ring the control of the canal system of the State to the 
Federal Government and in favor of a passage of the seven 
million dollar appropriation bill, known as the Cantor-Hill 
bill, which preserved to the State its canal properties esti- 

1. See U. S. Senate reports on transportation routes to the seaboard, 
43d Cong. 1st sess., vol. 3, An outline of other surveys made by the United 
States between 1895 and 1900 may be found in the report of Edward A. Bond, 
N. Y. State Engineer and Surveyor in 1901, pp. 670, 976, 978. 


mated to exceed a hundred million dollars in value, and 
which was then considered a sufficient additional appropria- 
tion to complete the improvement already undertaken. 

Resolutions poured into the Legislature from various 
parts of the State of the following tenor: 'The Pavey reso- 
lution either gives away the canals or deprives them of all 
support for several years ; the Cantor-Hill resolution sub- 
mits to the people whether they will keep and improve the 
canals at a cost of seven million dollars." The protests were 
so strong that when the Pavey resolution came on for final 
action in the Senate on March 29th, it received but 16 affirm- 
ative votes and there were 32 votes against it, eight sena- 
tors who voted on the preceding Friday to advance the reso- 
lution having changed to the negative on its final passage. 

All prior appeals to the Federal Government for appro- 
priations in aid of the construction, maintenance or opera- 
tion of a canal system in this State having met with failure, 
the Pavey resolution was interpreted as another effort to 
delay if not wholly defeat further canal improvement in 
this State. 

XX. New York's Decline of Commerce, and its 

In his annual message to the Legislature of 1898, Gov- 
ernor Frank S. Black said : 

"No man can contemplate the past history of New York without 
feelings of pride. Surrounded at the beginning, like her sister com- 
monwealths, with conditions which seemed almost widiout hope, she 
has in a few years attained dimensions of an empire. This trans- 
formation has been wrought through the unexampled gifts of nature 
and the industry and skill of the citizens, protected by a wise and 
just government. If these reflections inspire pride only, without 
determination, their main value is lost. An inspiration that produces 
no results is no better than an agreeable recollection. There must 
be some practical test to the effect of former achievements upon our 
present energy. This test will be found in the manner in which the 
people of this State deal with the subject of their commerce in its 
present situation. That situation is not as it ought to be; easily the 
best in the country, it is not so much the best as it has been and can 


be made. The commerce of New York is not increasing as rapidly 
as that of other ports. ... It is said that the commerce tributary' 
to New York has been checked and discouraged by a too narrow- 
policy prevailing there with reference to terminal facilities. . . . 
In order that this subject may be treated with that consideration 
and care which its magnitude demands, I recommend that a com- 
mission be created to examine into the commerce of New York, the 
cause of its decline and the means of its revival, and report con- 

Governor Black on this and other occasions, manifested a 
deep interest in the commercial development of the State 
and city of New York, and in his annual messages took oc- 
casion to urge the prosecution of canal improvement under 
the nine million dollar act, and was disappointed that the 
appropriation was inadequate to complete the work, which 
had been authorized. 

In accordance with his recommendation, the Legislature 
of 1898, enacted Chapter 644 of the Laws of that year, au- 
thorizing the appointment of a commission to investigate 
into the causes of the decline of the commerce of New York. 
The Governor appointed as members of that commission ex- 
Mayor Charles A. Shieren of Brooklyn, Andrew H. Green, 
C. C. Shayne, Hugh Kelley and xMexander R. Smith. The 
life of the commission was extended another year by Chapter 
494 of the Laws of 1899. The commission was well con- 
stituted and made an exhaustive investigation into the va- 
rious questions relating to the commerce of the port and 
State of New York, and its report, filling two large volumes. 
was submitted by Governor Theodore Roosevelt to the Leg- 
islature on January 25, 1900. Ex-Mayor Shieren had long 
been identified with the commercial interests of New York, 
and Alexander R. Smith had written extensively and was a 
recognized authority on all commercial questions. Their 
report summarizes a few of the principal canal measures 
and transportation over the canals of the State for the 
purpose of showing the effect of the interior water-borne 
tonnage upon the commerce of New York. In the report 
of this commission may be found; the conclusion reached by 
the Inter-state Commerce Commission in the case of the 


New York Produce Exchange vs. the Grand Trunk Rail- 
way, involving railroad discrimination against New York, 
wherein they say : "The great supremacy of New York in 
the past has been measurably due to its canals. If it would 
hold that supremacy in the future, it must give attention to 
that same waterway. . . . If the canal were to be restored 
today to the same position in its carrying trade that it has 
occupied in the 20 years past, the commerce of the port of 
New York could not suffer.'' 1 The commerce commission 
attributed the decline of New York's commerce to various 
causes and made several recommendations, among which 
were the abolition of differential agreements, the adequate 
improvement of the Erie canal, and the creation of proper 
terminal facilities in New York and Buffalo. 

It was during the legislative session of 1898 that bills 
were proposed authorizing the appointment of the Canal 
Investigating Commission, which consisted of Hon. George 
Clinton, Franklin Edson, Smith M. Weed, Edwin R. James, 
Frank Brainard, A. Foster Higgins and William McEchron. 
The discussion that arose over the passage of those bills in 
the Senate and Assembly was not only spirited, but assumed 
political aspects that tended to divide canal advocates along 
lines which had theretofore and thereafter largely been ob- 
literated whenever canal measures were under consideration. 

There were those who asserted that the powers of the 
commission were so restricted that a thorough investigation 
could not be made into the alleged frauds committed under 
the nine million dollar referendum measure, and that the 
bills authorizing the appointment of the commission were 
purposely so framed as to make it impossible for the com- 
missioners to go forward in a thorough manner. 

To the various objections raised to the bill answer was 
made by Speaker S. Frederick Nixon and others, in effect 
that ample powers were conferred upon the commissioners 
to conduct a thorough and exhaustive investigation into all 
work done under the referendum measure of 1895, and that 

1. Students of transportation problems in this State will find the report 
of the N. Y. Commerce Commission a valuable medium of information from 
authentic sources. 


there were parliamentary precedents for the form of the 
bill under consideration. In the course of the debate on this 
measure m the Assembly on January 26, 1898, the Speaker, 
the Hon. S. Frederick Nixon, said : 

"I trust that I may be pardoned for reviewing to some extent the 
history of the canal legislation during the past three or four years. 
Some of the older members of this House will recall when in 1894, 
there was introduced in the lower branch of the Legislature a bill 
providing for the submission to the people of a proposition for the 
expenditure of twelve millions of dollars, upon the canals of this 
State, which was defeated. Shortly after the adjournment of the 
Legislature there convened in this House the Constitutional Con- 
vention of 1894. The canal proposition was presented at that time. 
In the discussion upon this proposition requests were made of the 
various public officials to give to the Constitutional Convention; esti- 
mates as to the cost of this work. . . . The Superintendent of 
Public Works who at that time had the assistance of Mr. Martin 
Schenck, who was formerly State Engineer and Surveyor, and who 
assisted him in compiling the data, reported that no reliable infor- 
mation existed either in his department or that of the State Engi- 
neer and Surveyor, through which anything like a close approxima- 
tion might be made. From such data as was available he estimated 
the cost of carrying out the Seymour plan, which contemplated the 
deepening of the prism one foot and raising the banks one foot, so 
as to secure two additional feet of water, at between nine and ten 
millions of dollars; and the additional cost of the substitution of 
vertical for sloping walls, at $40,000 per mile, besides the cost of 
engineering, as there were 250 miles of such walls on each side to be 
reconstructed, the aggregate cost for that was estimated at ten 
millions of dollars. . . . The State Engineer reported that there 
was not sufficient data in his office from which to make an estimate 
that could be relied upon, and after going over the figures of his 
predecessor, he reported to the Superintendent of Public Works that 
it would involve an expenditure of between eleven and twelve 
millions of dollars. . . . This proposition was submitted to the 
people, and the constitutional amendment carried at the next elec- 
tion. The Legislature in 1S95, pursuant to the Constitutional amend- 
ment, submitted to the voters of this State an act which provided for 
the appropriation of nine millions of dollars to carry on such canal 
improvement; and I desire to say in this connection that the ques- 
tion of the form of the improvement and the appropriations neces- 


rary to carry it out were more under the advisement and charge of 
what is known as the Canal Executive Committee than that of any 
State department. 

"The Legislature passed the act of 1895. It was submitted the 
following fall, and by a majority of between 200,000 and 300,000 wa9 
approved by the people of this State. Immediately thereupon the 
State Engineer proceeded to make estimates and to prepare plans 
and specifications, and contracts were let on the various lines of the 
canals; but not until early in 1896 did the Engineer have an oppor- 
tunity to make further surveys. In the meantime the work went on 
from month to month before complete surveys were made. . . . 
The State Engineer continued his investigation upon the question 
of the cost of this improvement. It was reported by his assistants 
that possibly this work would cost fifteen or sixteen millions of 
dollars. . . . He met with the Canal Board and the Executive; 
Canal Committee, and stated to them that in his judgment there 
could be eliminated from that work enough so that it would reduce 
it to the original appropriation of nine millions of dollars. As the 
work went on new and unforeseen conditions arose, and large ex- 
penditures were required for the reconstruction of what had been 
improperly done under former enlargements." 

It devolved upon us to satisfy the House that the bill was 
in proper form and that it was supported by American as 
well as British parliamentary precedents. Some of these 
had been established, as was said by Baron Parke in Beau- 
ment v. Barrett, 1 "by virtue of ancient usage and prescrip- 
tion, the lex et consuetudo Parliamenti, which forms a part 
of the common law of the land, and according to which the 
High Court of Parliament, before its division, and the 
Houses of Lords and Commons since are invested with 
many privileges." In defending the measure I took occa- 
sion to call attention to some of these British parliamentary 
precedents as well as the precedents of the United States 
Senate and other parliamentary bodies, including those of 
the legislature of this State, some of which are cited in 
People v. Learned, reported in the 5 Hun's Reports, at pages 
626 and following, in disposing of the question of the 
powers of the Tilden Commission, authorized under Chap- 

1. Moore Privy Counsel, 63. 


ter 91 of the Laws of 1875, to investigate into canal affairs. 
We succeeded in satisfying a majority of the members of 
Assembly that the measure was adequate to accomplish the 
purposes designed by its framers, and was abundantly 
justified by such precedents. The bill was finally passed 
and approved, and the investigation conducted thereunder 
with the results already stated. 

The agitation over the Pavey resolution, and the fact that 
an investigation was to be made into canal affairs, involving 
the question as to the amount of money necessary to com- 
plete the improvement according to the plan embodied in 
the referendum measure, led canal advocates to the conclu- 
sion that it would be safer and wiser not to press the seven 
million dollar referendum measure to a vote, but to defer 
action thereon until it could be definitely ascertained whether 
or not that sum would be sufficient to complete the improve- 

The Clinton Commission made its report to the Legisla- 
ture February 28, 1899, from which it appeared that a much 
larger sum would be needed to complete the improvement 
under the nine million dollar act than had been theretofore 
stated, and the Legislature sought the advice of the Attor- 
ney-General with the view of adjusting damages under con- 
tracts partially completed. Bills were introduced and passed 
to accomplish that result. One of these bills was entitled 
"An Act authorizing the Canal Board to terminate contracts 
made by the State of New York for the improvement of the 
Erie canal, Champlain canal and Oswego canal, permitting 
the return and payment to the contractors of the money de- 
posited and earned by them under their contracts with the 
State of New York." 1 

The inadequacy of the nine million dollar appropriation 
to complete the improvement was the occasion of bitter crit- 
icism on the part of the press and anti-canal forces in the 
State, who had denounced in most unsparing terms all who 
had in any way been identified as advocates or as partici- 
pants in the work of canal construction under that measure. 

I. Senate Journal, 1899, vol. 2, p. 1751. 


The claim was again made that the canals should be aban- 
doned and canal properties turned over to railways. Such 
a proposition as that never had and never could receive ap- 
proval; and although there was occasion for complaint, 
canal advocates were in no way responsible for existing con- 
ditions. They had been as zealous in the proper expendi- 
ture of money as they had been in the advocacy of the ap- 
propriation, and to no one was there traced any peculation 
or incriminating circumstances involving themselves or their 
friends in the alleged frauds under the nine million dollar 
referendum measure. 

When these matters were laid before Governor Theodore 
Roosevelt, on March 8, 1899, he called to his assistance for 
the purpose of determining "the broad question of the 
proper policy which the State of New York should pursue 
in canal matters," General Francis V. Greene, ex-Mayor 
George E. Green of Binghamton, Hon. John N. Scatcherd 
of Buffalo, Major Thomas W. Symons, Hon. Frank S. 
Witherbee of Port Henry, who together with the State 
Engineer, Hon. Edward A. Bond, and the Superintendent 
of Public Works, Hon. John N. Patridge, constituted the 
so-called Roosevelt Commission. 

General Greene and Major Symons were West Point 
graduates, army engineers of wide experience and especially 
fitted to serve on the commission. Major Symons had been 
identified with the Deep Waterway Survey through New 
York and had given much study to the subject of canal af- 
fairs in this State. The other gentlemen named on the com- 
mission were all identified with commercial affairs and took 
a broad view of transportation problems. 

This commission entered upon the subject matter referred 
to them from the standpoint not only of experience, but 
with a knowledge acquired by a study of transportation 
problems in this and other countries. They devoted several 
months to public hearings, held in various parts of the 
State, and sent one of their number to Europe to study 
canals and canal construction in France, Germany and the 
Netherlands. They called to their assistance distinguished 
engineers and experts in canal matters, and made a thorough 


investigation into all the problems involving- canal construc- 
tion in this State. 

During this period there was much uncertainty as to 
what conclusions would be reached. The matters had been 
submitted in such form that it was possible for the com- 
mission to report adversely to all further canal improve- 
ment, although there had been no intimation from any mem- 
ber of the commission to that effect. The sentiment in the 
State in favor of canal improvement was very strong and 
on the call of the New York Board of Transportation a 
State Commerce Convention met at Utica on October 10, 
1899, consisting of about 300 delegates from the various 
political divisions and commercial organizations of the State. 
A temporary organization was effected on the motion of the 
writer by the election of ex-Senator George B. Sloan of 
Oswego, a veteran canal advocate, as temporary chairman, 
and Messrs. Frank S. Gardner of New York and John 
Cunneen of Buffalo as secretaries. The committee on or- 
ganization, of ■ "which the writer was made chairman, after 
ex-Senator Sloan had declined to serve as one of the per- 
manent officers, recommended the Hon. John B. Kernan, a 
former State Railroad Commissioner and thoroughly fa- 
miliar with transportation problems, of Utica, for presi- 
dent; Messrs. Frank S. Gardner of New York, John Cun- 
neen of Buffalo and Dr. A. H. Bayard of Cornwall-on-the- 
Hudson for secretaries, and Russell H. Wicks, of Utica, 
for treasurer. 

The convention remained in session for two days and 
considered such matters as are stated in the following ad- 
dresses, viz., "Forest Preservation as related to Commerce," 
by Hon. David McClure of New York: "The Loss of Canal 
Commerce through Railroads' Competition and Discrimina- 
tion and the Remedy," by Hon. John D. Kernan; "Grain 
Elevation Charges as Affecting Commerce," by Hon. George 
W. Smith of Herkimer ; "The Canals of New York State, 
a Hindrance to its Commercial Prosperity," by John I. 
Piatt of Poughkeepsie ; "The State Canals, and what should 
be done with Them," by Hon. G-eorge B. Sloan; ''What 
shall be done with the State Canals?" by Hon. Martin 


Schcnck, ex-State Engineer, of Troy, and on the same sub- 
ject by Hon. James R. Arkell of Canajoharie and Hon. John 
P. Truesdell of New York; "The Commercial Future of 
the State in the Iron and Steel Traffic," by George H. Ray- 
mond of Buffalo; "The Canal Improvement and Terminal 
Facilities/' by Hon, Henry B. Hebert of the New York 
Produce Exchange; "The Vital Importance of the Erie 
Canal to Buffalo," by Dr. John D. Bonnar of Buffalo. Sev- 
eral other addresses were made on related subjects. The 
committee on resolutions, of which Senator George B. Sloan 
was chairman, reported among other things that "The Erie, 
Oswego and Champlain canals ought to be materially im- 
proved to maintain the commercial supremacy of the State, 
thereby promoting the prosperity of its people." Among 
those wdio spoke in favor of the resolutions were Capt. 
William W. Clarke, Senator Sloan, G. H. Raymond, the 
writer — who was called to preside during the address of 
Hon. John D. Kernan — and others; and the resolutions 
were adopted with but one dissenting vote, that of Hon. 
John I. Piatt, who on that and other occasions continued to 
oppose canal improvement. In his speech on that occasion 
he said: 

"When the tolls became insufficient to pay for the maintenance 
of the canals, that was proof that their usefulness had departed, by 
the rule we have already named. It was expected that making them 
free, — that is to say, making the State instead of the traffic pay the 
cost of maintenance, — would largely increase their tonnage, but the 
increase during the following year was only 196,633 tons, and it has 
never since been as large as in 18S2 except in a single year. In 1898 
it was only 3,360,063 tons, which was less than in any other year 
since 1857, forty-one years ago. Meanwhile the tonnage of the rail- 
ways between Buffalo and New York, once less than a fourth that 
of the canals, has grown to be over ten times as great. As compared 
with the two main roads, the New York Central and the Erie, the 
canals, which once carried 77 per cent, of the combined tonnage, now 
carry only 834 per cent. These figures tell a story of decline that 
though significant enough, has been so often told that it has lost the 
power to stir us. Let us consider others that point the same moral 
still more strongly. 


The report of the Superintendent of Public Works for 1897, the 
last one printed, shows that the number of tons of freight of all 
kinds carried on the canals that year was 3,617,804. The amount 
paid in taxes for canal support that year, not including any of the 
money borrowed for the new enlargement, was $2,571,169.47. This 
was just as much a part of the real cost of transportation as the 
wages of the boatmen, or the feed of the horses, or the fuel con- 
sumed in producing steam. If we divide this sum by the number 
of tons carried, the startling fact is revealed that the State paid at 
the rate of 71 .07 cents for every ton of freight moved on the canals — 
71.07 cents per ton, or 3.55 cents per hundred pounds, 2.13 cents 
on a bushel of wheat, weighing 60 pounds, or 1.99 cents on a bushel 
of corn weighing 56 pounds. Last week the canal freight on wheat 
from Buffalo to New York was 3 cents per bushel, and on com 2^5 
cents. Adding what the State paid in 1897 to this, we have an actual 
canal rate of 5.13 cents on wheat, and 4$/& cents on corn. I am in- 
formed by a large shipper that that same week the railways were 
carrying wheat in large quantities at 5 cents, and corn at 4 1 /! cents. 
In other words it costs more money to carry wheat or corn from 
Buffalo to New York by canal than it does by rail." 

This was fully answered by several members of the con- 
vention. Notwithstanding this opposition the discussions, 
resolutions and general effect of the Commerce Convention 
were opportune and effective in formulating public senti- 
ment on the subject of canal improvement throughout the 
State. The resolutions were a bugle-call to the commercial 
interests of all sections of the State, and the results were 
apparent in the action of the Legislature at its next session. 

We members of the Buffalo delegations made a formal 
report to the Hon. Conrad Diehl, Mayor of Buffalo, which 
was transmitted by him to the Common Council and appears 
in the Proceedings for that year. Reports were made to 
various other cities and commercial bodies throughout the 

This convention was followed by a conference of the 
commercial organizations of Greater New York with the 
Committee on Canals of the New York Produce Exchange 
on December 12, 1899, at which the following conclusion 
was reached : 


"It is the earnest hope of the New York Produce Exchange that 
all commercial organizations of this State will fully recognize the 
necessity of a modern waterway of large dimensions, not less than 
fourteen feet in depth, with corresponding width, connecting Lake 
Erie with tidewater in the Hudson river, as an essential condition to 
the continued commercial supremacy of the State. 

"If this conviction be impressed with an unanimous sentiment on 
the part of our commercial organizations upon the People, the neces- 
sary appropriations can be secured for this great work, by the means 
of which there can be no doubt that New York's preeminence in 
trade will be permanently established." 

There were submitted to the Roosevelt Commission 
reports from engineers, commercial bodies, and individuals. 
These were all embodied in a report made to the Legislature 
on January 25, 1900, together with a large compilation of 
data relating to various phases of transportation in this and 
other States and together with the conclusions and recom- 
mendations of the Commission. That report fills a volume 
of 525 pages and has served as a text-book for canal advo- 
cates ever since its publication. 

This Commission recommended the construction of a 
barge canal from Lake Erie to the Hudson, from Lake 
Ontario to the Erie canal, and from Champlain to the Hud- 
son river, with a prism 12 feet in depth, except over mitre 
sills and other permanent structures where the water was to 
be 11 feet, with a width of 75 feet at the bottom, with slop- 
ing banks, except through the beds of lakes, and rivers 
where the width was to be 200 feet, and except through 
cities, towns and villages, where the width might be re- 
stricted. The route proposed for the Erie canal was along 
the Mohawk, through Oneida lake, and through Seneca and 
Clyde rivers, utilizing Wood creek which had formed a 
highway of commerce in the 17th century. 

The Commission also recommended that the locks should 
be 28 feet wide and 310 feet long, so that two vessels each 
150 feet in length, 25 feet in width and drawing 10 feet of 
water, might be locked through together. It was estimated 
that such a barge would carry approximately 1,000 tons and 
that the improvement of the Erie would cost approximately 


$62,000,000. The report contains much valuable data and a 
large edition was printed and extensively circulated through- 
out the State. This was submitted to the Legislature with 
a special message by Governor Theodore Roosevelt on 
January 25, 1900. 

This report made a profound impression on the people 
of the State. Canal advocates were surprised and made en- 
thusiastic at the magnitude of the waterways proposed, for 
they were larger than they had theretofore thought it pos- 
sible to construct on account of the enormous expense in- 
volved, while the opponents of canal improvement in this 
State considered the recommendations of the Roosevelt com- 
mission so gigantic as to be wholly unfeasible to be put into 
practical operation. Public meetings were held at various 
parts of the State to consider the subject matter of the re- 
port. The various commercial bodies appointed delegations 
to confer with the Governor and legislative committees, for 
the purpose of determining the policy to be pursued as a 
result of the recommendations of the Commission. 

The experience under the enlargement undertaken in 
1835, as we ^ as the inadequacy of the nine million dollar 
appropriation to complete the improvement then undertaken, 
were such as to convince all interested in canal improvement 
that it was not only wise but necessary to have a thorough 
survey made of the proposed routes to determine approxi- 
mately the probable cost of the barge canal, the construction 
of which was recommended by the commission. 

Canal advocates throughout the State united upon this 
policy and a bill was drafted for that purpose by the secre- 
tary of the Board of Trade and' Transportation. Before 
its introduction, however, the bill was examined by Judge 
Charles Z. Lincoln of the Statutory Revision Commission, 
by State Engineer Edward A. Bond, by Superintendent of 
Public Works Col. John N. Patridge, and by Hon. John D. 
Kernan of Utica, President of the State Commerce Conven- 
tion, and by all these approved. It was subsequently ex- 
amined and approved by a committee appointed at a con- 
ference representing a number of the commercial bodies of 
New York. 


XXI. Legislative History of the Barge Canal. 

During the legislative session of 1900, I was chairman of 
the Canal Committee of the Assembly and on March 6th in- 
troduced in the Assembly the bill, which was entitled "An 
act directing the State Engineer and Surveyor to cause 
surveys, plans, and estimates to be made for improving the 
Erie canal, the Champlain canal and the Oswego canal, and 
making an appropriation therefor/' The bill carried an ap- 
propriation of $200,000. On March 8th, Senator Henry 
Marshall of Brooklyn introduced the same bill in the Senate. 
Opposition immediately manifested itself in both Senate and 
Assembly, but the friends of the measures were on the alert 
and took effective steps to formulate public sentiment in 
favor of its passage. The press throughout the State was 
divided. On March 7th, Assemblyman Hyatt C. Hatch of 
Steuben offered a. resolution in the Assembly proposing to 
amend the Constitution so as to enable the State to dispose 
of its canal properties to the Federal Government, substan- 
tially as proposed in the Pavey resolution of 1898. This 
tended to complicate matters still further. 

About twenty-five of the leading commercial bodies of 
New York City on March 10, 1900, gave a dinner to Gov- 
ernor Roosevelt at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in recognition 
of his friendly attitude toward the canal interests of the 
State. It was presided over by the Hon. William E. Dodge, 
and was attended by Lieut.-Gov. Timothy L. Woodruff, 
Speaker S. Frederick Nixon, Hon. J. P. Allds, Gen. Francis 
V. Greene, Major Thomas W. Symons, Hon. John N, 
Scatcherd, Hon. Frank S. Witherbee, all of the Roosevelt 
commission, which had proposed the barge canal, and all 
the Canal Committee of the Assembly, and such other noted 
canal advocates as Senator Geo. A. Davis, John D. Kernan 
of Utica, Henry B. Hebert of the New York Produce Ex- 
change, Gustav H. Schwab, Frank B. Brainard, Andrew H. 
Green, Frank S. Gardner, Lewis Nixon, Franklin Edson, 
A. B. Hepburn, Bird S. .Coler, Edward A. Bond, John N. 
Patridge and Gherardi Davis, Franklin Quinby, W. R. 
Corwine, and scores of others interested in canal improve- 


ment in this State. It was stated that 460 prominent busi- 
ness men of the city and State of New York were in attend- 
ance, representing- nearly all the commercial organizations 
in New York City. It was the most notable canal dinner 
ever given up to that time in the State. 

In the course of his remarks on that occasion, Gov. Theo- 
dore Roosevelt said : 

"The scheme propos-ed is one of tremendous and far-reaching im- 
portance. ... It is the only scheme which offers an adequate 
check on the railroads that now can or do show their mastery over 
our commerce, but the very vastness of the scheme means in the 
first place that there should be the most careful preparation so that 
there shall be no possibility of repeating the mistakes which have 
marred feebler efforts in the past, and in the next place that there 
must be thorough and ardent missionary work to make the people 
of the State feel the need of doing what is proposed. . . . There 
are two or three vital features of any scheme we may adopt. In the 
first place, we must keep steadily before our minds the all-important 
fact that the canal is not an outworn method of transportation. 
During the lifetime of the present generation the canal system has 
received a greater development than the railroad system in every 
great European country where the topographical conditions permit 
of its existence at all." 

Lieut. -Governor Timothy L. Woodruff said : 

"I will admit that there was a time when I questioned the feasi- 
bility of the plans advocated by the Canal Commission, but after 
talking with General Greene, I am confident that the plans recom- 
mended by the Canal Commission to Governor Roosevelt can and 
will by his aid be carried out." 

In the course of my remarks on that occasion, I said: 

"During the last ten years canal commerce has been on the de- 
cline and a condition has been reached which would seem to war- 
rant extraordinary efforts being put forth to regain it. It is generally 
believed that the construction of a new Erie canal, large enough to 
accommodate thousand-ton barges will not only regain for New 
York her commerce, but will hold it against all competition for a 
century to come. Such a waterway would prevent diversion of com- 
merce through the Canadian canals to Montreal, as well as prevent 
railways from diverting it to the South Atlantic seaports. The most 
improved and modernized railroad system could not successfully 


compete with the fleets of barges, each of which will carry thirty- 
three thousand bushels of wheat. 

"The survey bill, prepared by the Hon. Frank S. Gardner, carries 
an appropriation of $200,000 to enable the State Engineer to make 
surveys of the proposed routes of the new Erie canal and to prepare 
plans for a canal that will accommodate such barges and furnish 
estimates of the cost of the same. . . . These ought to be known 
in advance in order that the people may act intelligently when the 
matter is submitted to them for their approval. . . . This is their 
right as well as it is the duty of the friends of the canals to have 
the facts known. The utmost publicity should be given to the whole 
matter of further canal improvement. Our State Engineer, in whom 
the people have perfect confidence, is required to make public the 
results of his investigations and surveys, so that full discussion may 
be had before the people are required to act upon the matter. This 
will involve some delay, but under the Constitution it is believed 
that the new route must be defined in the bill which makes appro- 
priation for the work of canal enlargement and such route cannot 
be determined until the surveys are complete. The bill to appro- 
priate money for the improvement may then be drafted and the route 
defined and the people made acquainted with all its provisions. . . . 
That referendum measure is likely to involve the largest appropria- 
tion ever made in this or any other State." 


Short addresses were also made by General Francis V. 
Greene, Hon. John D. Kernan, William E. Dodge, Frank 
B. Baird, and others. 

The effect of this large gathering of the influential men 
of the State to discuss and consider the recommendations 
of the Roosevelt commission, practically decided the fate 
of the survey bill then pending in the Legislature. Not a 
single discordant note had been sounded during the entire 
evening and the attitude of the Governor on that occasion 
was most assuring to the gentlemen in attendance. 

At the hearings given the following week by legislative 
committees having the survey bill under consideration, dele- 
gations from the Merchants' Exchange and other business 
organizations of Buffalo were in attendance, consisting of 
such well-known canal advocates as George Clinton, John 
Cunneen, Captain J. H. H. Brown, Charles B. Hill, Judge 
Louis W. Marcus, Seward A. Simons, George W. Frost, 


Major Thomas W. Symons, and others. Delegations from 
the New York Produce Exchange consisted of Messrs. 
Frank Brainard, Henry B. Hebert, Alfred Romer, and 
Franklin Quinby; from the New York Board of Trade and 
Transportation, Frank S. Gardner and William F. McCon- 
nell, Esq. ; from the New York Merchants' Association, 
Messrs. S. Christy Mead, W. R. Corwine, Arthur J. 
Baldwin, John M. Perry; from the New York Merchants' 
and Manufacturers' Board of Trade, Mr. Alexander R. 
Smith and Mr. G. A. Heckman ; from the Merchants' As- 
sociation, Mr. Frederick B. de Berard; from the Oswego 
Board of Trade, Col. John T. Mott, Frederick O. Clarke, 
and Thomas D. Lewis. 

The chambers of commerce and boards of trade of 
Albany, Troy, Utica, and some other cities, took favorable 
action on the survey bill and in some instances were repre- 
sented by delegations in attendance at the hearings. 

During the hearing before the Ways and Means Commit- 
tee of the Assembly, Major Thomas W. Symons was asked 
by Chairman Allds whether or not a barge canal were 
feasible? To which question he replied: 

"Yes, it is the best thing possible for the State. A ship 
canal is feasible a 9 an engineering proposition by way of 
Lake Ontario, but it would be almost fatal to the commerce 
of New York. It would cost three or four hundred 

He was again asked : "Is there water enough for a barge 

He replied : "Yes ; one would take Lake Erie waters to 
Seneca river and that water to Oneida river and lake, and 
there get plenty of water. That was looked into very care- 
fully and the reports are to be seen in the Engineer's office." 

Again: "Is this survey necessary?" 

"It is absolutely necessary before the work can be done 

Chairman Allds then remarked : "We are very glad to 
have a man before us who can tell us something that is to be 
relied upon." 1 

i. Report in Buffalo Evening News, Mch. 15, 1900. 


Other features of the bill were discussed by Messrs. 
Clinton, Hebert, Schenck, Brainard, Cunneen and others. 

During- the consideration of the survey bill before the 
Senate and Assembly committees, George H. Raymond of 
Buffalo, representing the Buffalo Merchants' Exchange, and 
William F. McConnell, assistant secretary of the New York 
Board of Trade and Transportation, were in attendance at 
the capitol, presenting the arguments in favor of its passage 
to individual members of the two Houses. Both these gen- 
tlemen were familiar with the report of the Roosevelt com- 
mission and the general features of the survey bill, and had 
given long and patient study to the matter of transportation. 
They were also acquainted with most of the members of the 
two branches of the Legislature and understood something 
of the attitude of the individual members of the survey bill. 
They rendered most valuable and effective assistance to 
Senator Marshall and myself in securing proper considera- 
tion and favorable action eventually upon the measure. 

During the consideration of the bill in committee, letters, 
resolutions, petitions and memorials poured in from various 
parts of the State, in favor of its passage through the Legis- 
lature, but the bill was not immediately reported. 

Further hearings were had and the Hon. Martin Schenck, 
former State Engineer and Surveyor, who was recognized 
as an expert on canal matters in this State, prepared an 
elaborate statement in which he reviewed the history of 
transportation over State canals and assigned reasons which 
to him appeared conclusive as to why the Erie canal should 
be enlarged as recommended by the Advisory Commission. 
That statement had its effect upon members of the two 
Houses, although it required the strong influence of Senator 
Thomas C. Piatt to convince some Republicans that the 
exigencies of the Empire State demanded a favorable report 
of the survey bill. 

After the Senate Finance Committee by a vote of six to 
six had refused to report the survey bill favorably. Senator 
Timothy E. Ellsworth, chairman of the Committee on 
Rules, on April 4, 1900, reported a rule, which was adopted, 


that brought the survey bill immediately before the Senate 
for consideration. This action was strongly opposed by 
several members of the finance committee and the scene 
was intensely dramatic. But Senator Ellsworth, who had 
been a colonel in the Civil War, and was a fearless and a 
successful parliamentarian, left nothing undone to secure 
favorable action on the survey bill. Senators Thomas F. 
Grady, Nevada N. Stranahan, George A. Davis and William 
F. Mackey ably supported him. 

On the following day, when the matter came on for final 
action, it received the affirmative votes of 31 Senators and 
the negative of 16. 

When the bill reached the Assembly it was referred to 
the Committee on Rules, which had under consideration the 
companion Assembly bill, which I had introduced. We im- 
mediately made a poll of the Assembly to ascertain whether 
or not the committee on rules might be discharged from 
the further consideration of the survey bill, in case it de- 
clined to report the same, favorably to the Assembly. There 
appeared to be 83 members ready and willing to vote to dis- 
charge the committee on rules, but that number was insuffi- 
cient, and during the night of April 5th, and the morning 
of April 6th, the committee on rules were literally flooded 
with letters and telegrams. After 11 o'clock on April 6th, 
shortly before final adjournment, the survey bill was- favor- 
ably reported from the rules committee of the Assembly, 
whereupon an amendment was offered by Assemblyman 
Hyatt C. Flatch of Steuben and defeated, and thereupon I 
moved the bill to third reading and it was put upon its final 
passage, where it received 97 affirmative votes to 47 
against it. 

It was one of the most strenuous fights ever witnessed in 
the Assembly. The opponents of the measure realized that 
it meant, not only the expenditure of $200,000 in making a 
survey, but the still greater expenditure of sixty-two or 
more millions of dollars in the construction of a new barge 
canal through the State. 

Pennsylvania, Ohio and some other states had long since 
abandoned their artificial waterways, and the rural counties 


of the State were quite generally opposed to any further 
expenditure in canal development. 

At the critical period in the consideration of the survey 
bill, Senator Thomas C. Piatt, to whom various organiza- 
tions throughout the State had appealed, indicated to the 
leaders of the Senate and Assembly in terms that could not 
be mistaken, that the survey bill ought to be and must be 
favorably reported from the standing committees of the 
Senate and Assembly, in order that the members be given 
opportunity to vote upon it. 

Its conception was a master stroke of broad and pro- 
gressive statesmanship on the part of the Roosevelt Com- 
mission, and its passage through the Legislature a signal 
triumph on the part of canal advocates over opposing 
forces, worthy the enterprise of the people of the State. 

The bill was approved by Governor Roosevelt on April 
1 2th and became chapter 411 of the laws of 1900. 

It provided for surveys, plans and estimates of the Erie 
canal from Buffalo, substantially along the present align- 
ment, nearly to the city of Rochester, and from that point 
eastward for two surveys, one crossing north of the city 
across the Genesee river on a high aqueduct, and another 
by a detour to the south, crossing the Genesee river at water 
level. There were some changes in the alignment at Mace- 
don, Newark and at Lyons. The route east of Clyde was to 
extend through the valley of Crusoe creek to and along the 
Seneca river to the Oneida river, and up the Oneida river 
into and through Oneida lake and through the valley of 
Wood creek to New London. From Rome to Cohoes two 
surveys were provided, one via the present route and the 
other via the Mohawk river. Surveys, plans and estimates 
were also to be made from Mohawk fails to the Hudson 
near West Troy. 

In some portions of the route two and in others three 
surveys were directed to be made as well as the respective 
advantages of these several routes. The bill provided that 
the prism of the Erie should not be less than 12 feet deep 
throughout with a bottom width of not less than 75 feet, 
with such side slopes or vertical walls of masonry or rock 


as might be necessary to give a cross sectional area of the 
canal prism of at least 1125 square feet, except in the vicin- 
ity of locks, aqueducts and like structures, and through cities 
where modifications were deemed advisable and necessary. 

The bill further provided that there shall be not less 
than 11 feet of water in the locks, which were to be not less 
than 310 feet long in the clear and 28 feet wide, with 11 
feet depth of water on sills ; and that the locks should be 
capacious enough to pass two boats at one lockage, and pro- 
vided with machinery necessary for drawing boats in and 
out of such locks. 

The bill also provided for surveys, plans and estimates 
for improving the Oswego canal so as to secure a depth of 
not less than nine feet of water, except over aqueducts and 
other structures where there was to be at least eight feet of 
water, and the locks were to be enlarged so as to admit of 
boats with a draft of eight feet and width of 17^2 feet, and 
a length of 104 feet. 

Surveys, plans and estimates for the improvement of the 
Champlain canal were also directed to be made, for deepen- 
ing said canal to seven feet of water and to provide locks 
which would admit of the passage of boats having a draft 
of six feet, a width of 173/2 feet and a length of 9854 

Surveys were also made at various points between Fort 
Edward and Waterford, to ascertain whether it were 
cheaper to improve the Champlain canal along its present 
route or to canalize the Hudson river, and to determine 
whether in the interest of the State the route between these 
points should be in part or wholly via the present canal or in 
part or wholly via the Hudson river. 

All the surveys, plans and estimates, together with other 
data collected during the surveys, together with the calcula- 
tions relating thereto, were required to be presented to the 
Governor on or before January 1, 1901, and he was required 
to submit the same with his own recommendations to the 
Legislature before January 15, 1901. 

The law also provided that the State Engineer and Sur- 
veyor, when authorized by the Canal Board, should make 


surveys, plans and estimates of other routes in addition to 
those specified in this act. 

The bill was a comprehensive one and dealt broadly with 
the whole subject of internal waterways to connect lakes 
Erie and Ontario on the west and Lake Champlain on the 
north, with the Hudson river. 

The routes defined in the bill were along natural water- 
courses and substantially those utilized in the 17th and 18th 
centuries as highways of commerce, which have been quite 
fully described in the preceding chapters of this paper. 

Soon after the bill became a law, the State Engineer and 
Surveyor, Edward A. Bond, appointed a Board of Advisory 
Engineers, composed of the following well-known en- 
gineers: Hon. Elnathan Sweet, ex-State Engineer and Sur- 
veyor, Chairman ; George. S. Morison, member of the 
Isthmian Canal Commission; Major Thomas W. Symons, 
of the Corps of Engineers, U. S. Army; Prof. William H. 
Burr of the Isthmian Commission; and Major Dan C. 
Kingman of the Corps of Engineers, U. S. Army. In April, 
1900, Mr. Bond also called to his assistance David J. 
Howell as consulting engineer, Trevor C. Leutze as assist- 
ant consulting engineer, Wm. B. Landreth, James J. Overn, 
James H. Brace, A. E. Broenniman, J. T. N. Hoyt, S. J. 
Schapleau, and others, who constituted a board of consult- 
ing engineers. He also appointed as a board of engineers 
on the high lift locks, Elnathan Sweet, George S. Morison, 
Major Thomas W. Symons, William II. Burr and Major 
Dan C. Kingman. He also called upon Emil Kuichling, 
Geo. W. Rafter, S. M. Paul, George C. Mills, J. Nelson 
Tubbs, Prof. E. A. Fuertes, Prof. Gardner S. W r illiams, 
Edwin C. Paul, Edward C. Murphy, and others, for special 
information bearing on the questions under consideration. 

The magnitude of the work devolving upon the State 
Engineer under the survey bill may be judged somewhat 
from the extent of the surveys, exceeding upwards of 450 
miles in length, and through some portions of the route 
involving two or three independent surveys; as well as plans 
and estimates, together with a report on water supply, 
various forms of hydraulic and electrically operated locks, 


bridges, clams and other incidental problems largely unsolved 
in canal construction in this country. The Engineer's report 
fills a volume of upwards of a thousand pages and was sub- 
mitted to Governor Odell on February 12, 1901, ten months 
to a day after the survey bill was approved. 

In accordance with the suggestions made by Governor 
Roosevelt at the canal dinner that "there must be thorough 
and ardent missionary work done to make the people of the 
State feel the need of what is proposed," a second annual 
State convention was called on May 1, 1900, to meet in the 
City Hall of Syracuse- on June 6, 1900. Among the ques- 
tions proposed for the consideration of the convention was 
"The State Canals and their Improvement." The board of 
managers of the New York Produce Exchange, among other 
things, proposed the following: "The perpetuation of the 
canal system as the best means of safe-guarding the com- 
merce of the State, and that they should be enlarged, deep- 
ened and modernized." 

The Merchants' Exchange of Buffalo, after reciting the 
dependence of manufacturing industries upon cheap trans- 
portation and the fact that, "the experience of the world has 
shown that natural or adequate artificial water routes fur- 
nished today the cheapest possible transportation," resolved 
that the future prosperity of the entire State demanded the 
"improvement of its waterways on lines commensurate with 
the demands of commerce, thereby rendering it possible to 
make the State of New York the seat of the greatest manu- 
facturing industries in iron, steel and copper on the con- 
tinent ; to foster and increase our present great manufac- 
turing interests and to preserve the commercial supremacy 
of the State." 

Resolutions of similar import were proposed by other 
commercial bodies of the State for consideration at that con- 
vention. There were thirty-six delegates from Buffalo and 
its commercial organizations, and delegates were also pres- 
ent from the principal cities, villages and commercial bodies 
of the State, but in larger numbers than at the State Com- 
mercial Convention that met in Utica the year before. 
Among the Buffalo delegates were several gentlemen, since 


deceased, whose services and advocacy of all measures tend- 
ing to promote canal improvement entitle them to our grate- 
ful remembrance. Among these were Theodore S. Fassett, 
Marcus M. Drake, John Cunneen, John Laughlin, John 
Esser and Frederick C. M. Lautz. 

The name of Alfred Flaines, who had long been devoted 
to the general proposition of canal improvement in this 
State, does not appear in the list of delegates to that con- 
vention, although he had attended many other canal gather- 
ings in various parts of the State and rendered services of 
ereat value to the commercial interests of the State. The 
Syracuse convention was one of the landmarks in the history 
of canal affairs in New York State, as may be judged from 
the large number in attendance and the results of its delib- 

Important addresses were made by distinguished canal 
advocates; by the Hon. George Clinton; Gustav. H. Schwab 
of New York, on "Canals and the Foreign Commerce of 
New York" ; by Hon. Abel E. Blackmar of New York, on 
"Railroad Discrimination against New York and the Rem- 
edy" ; by Major Thomas W. Symons of Buffalo on "The 
State Canals and their Improvements" ; by Willis H. Ten- 
nant of Mayville, on "The State Canals and their Improve- 
ment," and by Hon. Franklin Edson of New York on "Canal 
Improvement, a non-partisan Question." 

Mr. Abel E. Blackmar, who has since been elevated to 
the Supreme Court bench in the 2nd Judicial District, was 
for years the counsel for the New York Produce Exchange 
in its litigation before the Inter-State Commerce Commis- 
sion and other tribunals, over differential and other ques- 
tions affecting the commerce of the port of New York. In 
the course of his speech before the State Commerce conven- 
tion he said: 

"Year by year the ports, especially those to the south, which have 
the larger differential, have encroached upon the trade of New York. 
. . . The system of differentials which affect grain-moving from 
the lake ports by rail to the Atlantic coast, is aimed directly at the 
trade of Buffalo in favor of Erie for the Philadelphia trade and 
Fairport for the Baltimore trade. Neither are interior points like 


Rochester and Syracuse unaffected. The rail rates on coarse freights 
from Syracuse and Rochester to the seaboard are the same as from 
Buffalo. This subjects such freight to the influence of the former 
lake differential and practically, as far as freight rates upon this class 
of products are concerned, brings Duluth within a cent a bushel as 
near Philadelphia and Baltimore as Syracuse is to New York. . . . 
Existing conditions had not permitted an arrogation of this dis- 
crimination by the railroads themselves. . . . But there does exist 
within the power of the people of New York a remedy which is sure 
and effective. There is a transportation agency which can never be 
interested in any termini except New York or Buffalo, nor in any 
interior cities except such as Rochester, Syracuse, Utica and Albany. 
This agency can never make agreements with railroads to divert 
traffic to any other ports ; it can be a party to no scheme of imposing 
and maintaining arbitrary charges for lighterage or elevators; it can 
serve only the people of New York and it can restore to New York 
in a decade the trade which has been laboriously and steadily diverted 
by the railroad companies. . . . This agency is an improved and 
large navigable waterway from Lake Erie to the Hudson river." 

Judge Blackmar for many years acted as counsel for the 
New York Produce Exchange and other commercial bodies 
in framing statutory and constitutional canal measures and 
was associated with the Hon. George Clinton of Buffalo and 
John G. Milburn of New Y r ork in the defense of the referen- 
dum measure of 1903, when that law was attacked on con- 
stitutional grounds before the Attorney General of the State. 

Major Thomas W. Symons made a strong, lucid address 
on that occasion, setting forth in detail the proposed route 
of the new barge canal and the reasons which had led the 
commission to its conclusions in recommending the same. 
He strongly, opposed the proposition for the construction of 
a ship canal and urged upon the convention the construction 
of a canal capacious enough to admit of barges carrying 
one thousand tons of freight as the most economical and 
most serviceable waterway between the Great Lakes and 
the sea. His address was listened to with great interest 
because it was generally recognized that to Major Symons 
as much as to any other of the Roosevelt commission was 
undoubtedly due the recommendation of a barge canal. 


It was at this convention that Willis H. Tennant of May- 
villc made his first appearance as a canal advocate and was 
welcomed by all those who understood that he represented 
a county wherein anti-canal sentiment was supposed to pre- 
dominate. He made a forceful and convincing- speech from 
the standpoint of a farmer, which elicited commendation 
from the delegates from various parts of the State. Mr. 
Clinton and Mr. Schwab also made strong" and convincing 
addresses during the sessions of the convention. 

The most serious problem under consideration at that 
convention was the form of endorsement that ought to be 
given to the canal project as recommended by the Roose- 
velt commission. The Canal committee was headed by 
George Clinton of Buffalo, and there were associated with 
him Major Thomas W. Symons, John Laughlin, George H. 
Raymond, and myself, from Buffalo; George B. Sloan, 
from Oswego ; Henry B. Hebert, Gustav H. Schwab, Abel 
E. Blackmar, and Franklin Edsors of New York; Willis H. 
Tennant of Mayville, Cornelius B. KlofT of Staten Island, 
and others. The committee consisted of twenty-five mem- 
bers selected from all parts of the State. 

To this committee were referred all the resolutions in 
any way affecting the canal question. When it went into 
session all these matters were taken into consideration, but 
the most important question was the report of the Roosevelt 
commission embodying the recommendations as to the feasi- 
bility of various routes as well as the cost by sections and 
what action it was wise for the convention to take in rela- 
tion to that report in advance of the surveys, plans, and esti- 
mates authorized to be made under the survey bill. It was 
a delicate matter to decide definitely before this information 
was obtained. Much time was given to the consideration 
of all these matters and in formulating its report. The com- 
mittee finally agreed upon and reported the following reso- 
lutions, which, notwithstanding the opposition of John. I. 
Piatt, were, with substantial unanimity adopted by the con- 
vention : 


"We recognize that for three-quarters of a century the canal 
system of the State has been the principal factor in securing and 
promoting our commercial prosperity. The chief results have been 
the up-building of industrial and commercial centers along the lines 
of the canals and making New York City the commercial metropolis 
of the Western Hemisphere. 

"These great centers of population have furnished markets for 
agricultural products of the State. The continued growth and pros- 
perity of these industrial centers are, therefore, vitally important to 
our agricultural interests. 

"While affording cheap transportation for products raised and 
consumed by our people, the canals have kept down railway freight 
rates on local traffic in all parts of the State. 

"While the railroads have minimized their operating expenses 
and laid out vast sums of money in multiplying their carrying ca- 
pacity, no improvements have been made in canal facilities for nearly 
forty years. They have become inadequate to the requirements of 
our State commerce. 

"The vast canal tonnage that gave New York its supremacy is 
largely diverted to rival routes. One of these is a 14-foot canal 
completed this year from the Great Lakes to the seaboard via the 
St. Lawrence river to Montreal. 

"The interests of the great trunk lines prevent their protecting 
the commerce of this State. By agreements between them estab- 
lishing differential rates a large portion of the commerce naturally 
tributary to New York has been taken from us. An improved canal 
will be an effective remedy. 

"The experience of the world has shown that natural or adequate 
artificial water routes furnish today the cheapest possible transpor- 

"The greatest centers of manufacturing prosperity are found 
where raw materials and manufactured articles can be moved to and 
from the factory at the lowest rates. 

"An increase of manufacturing industries within the borders of 
the State of New York will of necessity benefit the farmer, the 
wage-earner and the merchant, as well as the manufacturer. 

"Your committee, therefore, recommends the adoption of the 

"Resolved, That the future prosperity of the entire State requires 
the improvement and enlargement of its canals in a manner com- 
mensurate with the demands of commerce and to a capacity sufficient 
to compete with all rival routes." 


The recitals in this report set forth clearly indisputable 
facts showing what the canals had done and the importance 
of their improvement. The resolution following- is a broad 
declaration in support of such improvement in a manner 
commensurate with the demands of commerce without spe- 
cifically limiting- the improvement to that recommended by 
the Roosevelt commission, the feasibility and cost of which 
being still problematical. 

In commenting on the work of the convention after its 
conclusion, Mr. Howard J. Smith, one of the Buffalo dele- 
gates and a well-known authority on transportation ques- 
tions, said: 

"The feature of the convention was the unanimity of sentiment 
in favor of canal improvement. The report of the State Canal Com- 
mittee made last January has been in the people's hands a sufficient 
length of time to be thoroughly understood and the great majority 
of delegates were united in favoring the general plan recommended 
by that report. . . . After the survey is completed we shall know 
the cost of the thousand ton barge canal and if that cost is not too 
high, a convention to be called next January will undoubtedly de- 
clare in favor of such canal. The Buffalo delegation are fortunate 
in having three leaders of canal sentiment among its number — George 
Clinton, Major Thomas W. Symons and Henry W. Hill — who have 
done and are doing as much work for the canal as any three men 
in the State, and the strong position they hold make the influence 
of Buffalo a very positive factor in the convention." 

XXII. Progress under the State's new Canal Policy. 

The effect of this convention and the publicity given to 
its resolutions in the press throughout the State, was salu- 
tary and tended to keep alive the interest in the one subject 
which had received more attention than any other during 
the last century. Many of the interior towns were repre- 
sented in the convention and united in supporting the reso- 
lutions presented by the canal committee. This gave them 
force throughout the State and in a measure accomplished 
what Governor Roosevelt had strongly urged in his speech 
at the canal dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria a few months 


On the motion of Senator John Laughlin committees 
were appointed by the convention to appear before the Re- 
publican and Democratic Stat 2 conventions to urge the in- 
sertion of a plank in their respective platforms favoring 
canal improvement. Both conventions so resolved. 

Commercial bodies in various parts of the State held 
meetings to consider locally the general proposition of canal 
improvement, and among such was the dinner given by the 
Utica Chamber of Commerce on September 18, 1900, at 
which Willis H. Tennant of Mayvilfe was the principal 
speaker. In the course of his interesting address on that 
occasion he said : 

"The question of canal improvement is of course simply a busi- 
ness proposition, which if candidly considered must be viewed as a 
business man would look at it, were it a private enterprise owned 
by himself, while possessing the resources of our great State and 
occupying a position to derive all the benefits that may follow its 
improvement; or, at the same time suffer whatever loss might 
follow its abandonment. Its consideration should be free from 
every prejudice — sectional and otherwise; because, to improve the 
Erie canal to a practical plane of efficiency, which can not be less 
than that which will make a water route capable of controlling 
freight rates between the great inland seas of the Northwest and 
tide water deep enough to enable the vast inland commerce to be 
delivered direct to the great ocean freighters, waiting to receive 
and bear the same away for distribution in the markets of the world, 
it is conceded will cost millions of dollars." 

Speaking of the facilities afforded by railways, in the 
course of the same address, he said : 

"We have also noted the fact that in 1851, almost half a century 
ago, a first-class railroad was completed from tidewater, near New 
York city, through the southern part of our State to the shore of 
Lake Erie, touching at one of its finest harbors — in the city of Dun- 
kirk, in our own county. It was thereby in a position to take the 
commerce of the seaboard direct to the freight carriers upon the 
Great Lakes, and exchange the same for their cargoes brought down 
from the West and carry them to the seaboard with all the inland 
products of forest, mills and farms in the southern section of our 


"At that time it was regarded as a masterly stroke of business 
enterprise, and one that could not fail to be successful. Yet, the 
city of Dunkirk has never acquired a population greater than 15,000, 
nor have any great cities along this great through line of railway 
been built. In fact, only one city having a population as great as 
35.000, and only two or three having a population greater than 8,000 
or 10,000, are situate upon this great line between Dunkirk and the 
great harbor of New York. The commerce of the Great Lakes 
steadily increased; more freight products for inland carriers were 
offered at the harbors of lower Lake Erie, year by year, for trans- 
portation to New York and the seaboard. More and more freight 
for inland carriers has been offered at New York every year for 
shipment across our State to the Great Lakes, and the business 
centers of the West and Northwest. And yet, this great line of 
railroad making direct connections between these Great I^akes and 
the principal seaport of our country, has carried but very little of it. 
Why? Certainly business men building a great railroad for money- 
making purposes would take all the freight offered their road if they 
had the cars; and as much as possible with the cars at their com- 
mand. They would surely charge enough for carrying it to make it 
profitable. And why, then, did this railroad not do a very much 
larger business? What situation could have been more favorable? 
There must be a reason for it and we will look farther." 

In the month of December, 1900, George H. Raymond 
of Buffalo presented an argument in relation to the iron and 
steel traffic over the thousand, ton barge canal and the pos- 
sibilities of ship building in New York Bay, in the course of 

which he said : 


"The canal and river section would be able to make the iron and 
steel for the world, and around the shores of New York Bay would 
be built the navies of the world for war or for peace. The pos- 
sibilities, in this direction, are not dreamed of by the average citizen 
of the State. These statements are not idle dreams, but are based 
on a tendency as clear as it is certainly gratifying to the business 
prospects of the State. . . . 

"The one thousand ton barge canal plan is the only proposition 
presented in fifty years that is to the advantage of every interest in 
the State. By bringing this great iron and steel industry to the 
State which cannot come in any other way, the laboring man will 
find more employment, the farmer will find enormously increased 
demand for his products and closer to his farm." 


He had addressed the Farmers' Congress at Albany, 
N. Y., during the month of February preceding, on the 
subject of the dependence of farm communities upon manu- 
facturing centers as affording markets for their products 
and dwelt at some length upon the possibilities of the de- 
velopment of iron and steel industries along the enlarged 
Erie and- other waterways of the State. He afterwards be- 
came the secretary of one of the principal canal enlargement 
committees of the State and did very effective work in that 

During the legislative session of 1901, various proposi- 
tions were presented and considered with a view of carrying 
into effect the results of some one of the routes considered 
in the report of the State Engineer and Surveyor, which had 
theretofore been presented to the Legislature. 

The Canal committees of the Senate and Assembly took 
these matters into consideration, and on April 4th the Com- 
mittee on Canals of the Assembly through its chairman, the 
Hon. Thomas D. Lewis of Oswego, reported a bill entitled 
"An act making provision for issuing bonds to an amount 
not to exceed $26,000,000 for the improvement and enlarge- 
ment of the Erie canal, the Champlain canal and the Oswego 
canal, and providing for the submission of the same to the 
people to be voted upon at the general election to be held in 
the year 1901." The same bill had been introduced by 
Senator George A. Davis of Buffalo, chairman of the Canal 
Committee of the Senate. 

Soon after the introduction of this bill communications 
were presented to the Assembly from the New York State 
Grange, the New York State Farmers' Congress and the 
New York State Tax and Transfer Tax Reform Associa- 
tion, in opposition to the measure, assigning various reasons 

Resolutions were also adopted on April 8, 1901, at a 
meeting of the Canal Association of Greater New York, 
held at the New York Produce Exchange, comprising seven- 
teen organizations within the city of New York, protesting 
against the passage of the measure on the ground that a 


"thousand ton barge canal is the minimum of improvement 
that should be undertaken and that the expenditure of the 
money of the State on any less improvement would there- 
fore be an unwise expenditure of the public funds." 

The bill under consideration had been introduced in com- 
pliance with the recommendations of Governor Odell "that 
the question of improving the canals along the line of the 
Act of 1895 be submitted to the people at the coming elec- 
tion in the belief that it will meet with greater approval and 
that the expenditure can be more easily met, and that it will 
serve all the purposes for which the canal was originally 
designed." 1 

On the introduction of the bill in the Assembly a vigorous 
fight ensued over its reference, in which Assemblyman Ed- 
ward R. O'Malley of Buffalo and other Erie county mem- 
bers took a prominent part and by their exertions saved the 
bill from being sent to the Committee on Ways and Means. 
In that contest, however, the New York and Kings county 
assemblymen voted with the anti-canal men. Their attitude 
on this occasion divided canal forces throughout the State 
and it was the most hopeful outlook for defeating canal im- 
provement entirely in this State that the rural members had 
for a decade witnessed' in the Legislature. The improve- 
ment contemplated a waterway spacious enough to admit the 
passage of boats carrying 450 tons and was considered ade- 
quate to preserve for a generation at least the commerce of 
the State. Canal advocates "up the State" were inclined to 
favor the measure lest they wholly fail to secure any larger 
improvement. Political parties were reluctant to endorse 
the Odell referendum measure on account of the opposition 
from Greater New York, and after a long conference of the 
Republicans in the Executive Chamber it was decided by a 
majority to recommit the bill with instructions to strike out 
the enacting clause, and that motion was made by Senator 
Ellsworth, who had been and still was an active canal advo- 
cate, but fully realized the impossibility of passing the meas- 
ure against the opposition of Greater New York. 

1. See N. Y. Senate Journal for 1901, p. S64. 


It was on that occasion that Senator John Raines sug- 
gested that further time be given under the five-minute rule 
"to listen to the funeral oration. " To which I replied "that 
the voting down of canal improvement might be the occasion 
of a funeral oration over the party that took that course." 

Senator George E. Green, who had been a member of the 
Roosevelt commission and had recommended the barge 
canal improvement scheme, said : 

"If these were canal funeral orations, I believe the obsequies of 
that party would be pronounced in the near future. . . . We need 
the canals. I come from an anti-canal Senate district. I want to 
say that we legislators are to blame for this anti-canal sentiment. 
We go around our districts inveighing against the canals for political 
effect and our statements have their effect upon the people. Here- 
after let us go about telling the way canals will improve the com- 
merce of the entire State. The people will get an improved canal 
some time. I hope before next year's session of this body that the 
divided canal interests of this State will come together on the canal 
improvement question." 

This action of the Senate resulted from the division in the 
canal forces throughout the State over the canal bill of 1901, 
and left canal matters in a very unpromising condition at 
the close of that session. It was evident that no progress 
could be made, unless there were substantial agreement 
among the commercial bodies of the State as to the charac- 
ter and magnitude of the work to be done. The expense of 
the construction of the waterway recommended by the 
Green Commission was so much greater than conservative 
canal men believed could be carried forward that they were 
ready and willing to accept an improvement far less ex- 
pensive and much less capacious. The hostility, however, of 
the commercial bodies of Greater New York to any project 
involving a minimum of improvement less than a thousand- 
ton barge canal, was such that there was little or no hope of 
accomplishing anything other than that character of a 

After the close of the legislative session of 1901, confer- 
ences were held between canal advocates in various parts 


of the Slate, with a view of arriving at some agree- 

A third State Commerce Convention assembled in the 
Merchants' Exchange Chambers at Buffalo on October 16, 
1 901, and remained in session two days. 

The address of welcome was delivered by the Hon. O. P. 
Lctchworth, president of the Buffalo Merchants' Exchange, 
and addresses were made on the following subjects by the 
following named gentlemen : "The Future Canal System of 
the State of New York," by Capt. M. M. Drake, of the 
Buffalo Merchants' Exchange; "The Business Interests of 
Western New York and the Barge and Ship Canal Proposi- 
tions," by S. E. Filkins, of the Medina Business Men's 
Association ; "The Proper Position for Rochester on Water 
Transportation," by Horace G. Pierce, of the Rochester 
Wholesale Grocers' Association ; "The W r aterway Ques- 
tion," by John A. C. Wright, of Rochester; "Practical 
Water Transportation for the State of New York," by 
Henry C. Main, of Rochester; "A Comparison of the Barge 
Canal with Deep Waterways," by George W. Rafter, C. E., 
afterwards author of the "Hydraulogy of the State of New 
York" ; "Ship versus Barge Canal," by Capt. Charles Camp- 
bell of the Marine Industrial League of New York; 
"Water-borne Freights," by Hon. Lewis Nixon of the New 
York Board of Trade and Transportation ; "The Preser- 
vation of our Waterways/' by Thomas Dorrity of the 
Western Waterway Transportation League of North West- 
ern New York. ; "The Practical and the Impractical in 
Water Transportation for the State of New York," by Gor- 
don W. Hall, of Lockport ; "The Importance of the Thou- 
sand Ton Barge Canal to Western New York," by Edward 
I. Taylor, of Lockport; "Importance of the Canal Water- 
ways," by John McCausland, of Rondout ; "The Erie Canal 
Vital to the best Interests of the State of New York," by 
Dr. J. D. Bonnar. of Buffalo. 

This convention was largely attended by delegates from 
various parts of the State, representing various commercial 
bodies and political divisions of the State. Among the dele- 
gates were such well-known men as ex-Mayor Charles A. 


Shieren, Gustav H. Schwab, Frank S. Gardner, ex-Mayor 
Franklin Edson, William R. Corwine, Frank Brainard, G. 
Waldo Smith, Henry B. Hebert, Wm. G. Smythe, John V. 
Barnes, Albert Kinkel, and others of New York; A. M. 
Hall, Col. John T. Mott and Hon. George B. Sloan, of 
Oswego; Hon. Thomas M. Costello, of Altmar ; Hon. 
Robert J. Fish, of Oneida ; George A. Fuller, of Water- 
town ; George S. Dana and Henry D. Pixley, of Utica ; 
W. H. Freer, of Troy; Wilbur S. Peck and Francis E. 
Bacon, of Syracuse ; John R. Myers, of Rouse's Point ; 
Franklin Oakes, of Cattaraugus; Hon-. Thomas D. Lewis, 
of Fulton; Thomas S. Coolidge, of Glens Falls; Alfred 
Haines, Theodore S. Fassett, Marcus M. Drake, John 
Cunneen, George P. Sawyer, Ogden P. Letchworth, Richard 
Humphrey, George H. Raymond, George Clinton, Henry 
W. Hill, Fred C. M. Lautz, and others of Buffalo. 

Hon. John D. Kernan of Utica was elected president; 
Hon. Frank S. Gardner, John Cunneen and Correl Hum- 
phrey were elected secretaries ; and Harvey W. Brown of 
Rochester, treasurer. 

A full report of this convention will appear in succeed- 
ing pages of this collection. 

Shortly after the opening of the session and on January 
20, 1902, Senator George A. Davis of Buffalo introduced in 
the Senate a bill entitled "An act making provision for 
issuing bonds to an amount not to exceed $28,800,000 for 
the improvement of the Erie canal, and providing for the 
submission of the same to the people to be voted upon at the 
general election to be held in the year 1902," which w r as read 
a second time and referred to the Committee on Canals. 1 
The same bill was introduced in the Assembly by Assembly- 
man John A. Weekes, Jr., of New York. 

The bill was amended from time to time and the amount 
increased to $31,800,000 in order to include the improve- 
ment of the Champlain canal. 2 This measure did not con- 
template the improvement of the Oswego canal, and that 
aroused the opposition of members from that portion of the 

1. See N. Y. Senate Journal for 1902, p. 74. I 

2. lb. p. 1058. 


State. Notwithstanding the fact that the bill passed the 
Senate on March i8tb, by an affirmative vote of 28 to 15, it 
failed to pass the Assembly. 

Among those voting in the affirmative was Senator 
George E. Green of Binghamton, one of the lay commis- 
sioners, who recommended the barge canal improvement 
and who was thoroughly familiar with the subject. He was 
called to account by the Sunday Star of that city for his 
vote, and in his formal answer thereto, among other things, 
he said : 

"After a year of study, and I trust intelligent deliberation in con- 
junction with able associates on the committee (among whom at the 
beginning, opinions were as divergent and as many as the committee 
numbered), I became thoroughly convinced that it would be against 
the interests of the State to turn the canals over to the Federal Gov- 
ernment (and the Government apparently doesn't want them), and 
that a ship canal is not desirable. 

"I favored the 1,000 ton barge proposition and the vote of the 
committee was unanimous because, from the best and most trust- 
worthy information and statistics obtainable, a barge of this capacity 
would realize the minimum rate per ton mile. 

"The ocean liner is built with special reference to ocean naviga- 
tion, the lake vessel for navigating the lakes, while the barge is 
practically calculated to afford a cheap and efficient method for canal 

"Put the boat built for ocean travel within the waters of a suit- 
able ship canal of a length approximating the Erie and the slow pace 
made necessary, combined with the cost of equipment, coaling and 
crew, would make the expense of handling freight per ton mile in 
excess of the cost of handling first by lake vessel, breaking bulk at 
Buffalo, thence by barge to New York, there loading and transport- 
ing by ocean steamer to point of destination. . , . 

"Improve and make efficient the canals of the State and in similar 
ratio improvement and increase will enure to the benefit of the State 
by the upbuilding of old and the establishment of new commercial 
and industrial labor-employing interests. 

"I am usually optimistic in my views, but at the hazard of being 
rated a pessimist and without hope of reward to myself, except in 
the conscientious performance of duty, I want to sound a note of 
alarm and candid warning against throwing up the canals and turn- 
ing over completely the commercial and industrial interests of the 


— * 

State to the railroad corporations which are rapidly being dominated 
by one central power, otherwise, when too late to make suitable 
amends, we shall be forced to try the dangerous expedient of a 
paternal form of government so far as it relates to railroads which 
have been granted in unstinted measure, vast and valuable public 
rights of franchises which are being used for the advantage of the 
few, and to the detriment of the many. 

"One only needs to refer to the newspaper files for the past few 
months to discover the tremendous and appalling advances which 
have been made in the consolidation and "Community of Interests" 
between the great railways of the United States and especially the 
i-ailroads traversing the State of New York. 

"Not content with the ownership of the railroads, these railroads, 
or the eminent gentlemen who control them, are reaching out for 
the control of the great trans-Atlantic steamers, as well as many 
transportation facilities of the inland seas and waterways. 

"Ridicule the poor old Erie canal ail you may, but the fact still 
remains that in its present inadequate condition, it serves to regulate 
to a great extent the rates of transportation not only for the Empire 
State, but in connection with the Great Lakes, the rates on through 

"Many well informed men believe that for years past the mana- 
gerial hands of railroads have sought to control the Erie canal and 
the canals tributary thereto. 

"Supposedly in the interest of the 'poor boatman,' a law was 
enacted some years ago, providing that no corporation or company 
having more than fifty thousand dollars at its command could oper- 
ate boats on the Erie canal, thus preventing capital of any consider- 
able magnitude from seeking lucrative employment by establishing 
an adequate fleet of canal boats and sending out freight and traffic 
solicitors for the purpose of securing increased tonnage for the canal. 

"Through a careful and doubtless wisely conducted, practical cam- 
paign in behalf of the railroads, some newspapers of the State, for- 
merly favoring the canals, half unconsciously, have been subsidized 
or made friendly to the railroad interests while the opposition to the 
canals has been proportionately increased. 

"The railroads, in order to prevent the canals from securing 
business have time and again entered into traffic arrangements with 
shippers, giving a rate for twelve months in a year, nearly and often 
quite as low as canal transportation facilities afford for seven months 
of the year. 

The campaign against canals upon the part of the railroads and 
their allied interests has been efficient and incessant. The best minds 


um\ the strongest influences have been employed, not only to defeat 
the purpose of the canals in business ways, but especially to overcome 
the canals by preventing proper legislation or inventing that kind of 
legislation which kills. 

"Incidents may be cited, both diverse and numerous, where the 
Eric canal and its branches have not only established, but controlled 
local and through freight rates; not alone during the period of navi- 
gation but for the twelve months of the year. 

"It is to me passing strange that those residing in the counties 
not immediately located on the canals, apparently feel that the canals 
are of no moment to them. Northern New York and the southern 
tier counties have, through various ingenious methods, been care- 
fully educated to believe that the waterways of the State have no 
controlling influences over the railroad rates in their respective lo- 

"When the railroads paralleled by the canals are forced to estab- 
lish freight rates to meet canal competition, it is obvious that the 
railroads of the State ever so remote from the canals must meet the 
competition or forfeit their share of business. 

"This applies not only to through rates of freight, but the rail- 
roads which must necessarily look to the protection and fostering 
of local industries and products, whether of the farm or the factory, 
must afford to them similar rates as are enjoyed by those located on 
the railroads which border on or parallel the canal." 

These are some of the reasons which actuated Commis- 
sioner Green to reach his conclusion on the barge canal 

Mr. Thomas D. Lewis, chairman of the Committee of 
Canals of the Assembly, reported from that committee a 
substitute bill for the Weekes bill, which provided in sub- 
stance for the improvement of the Erie, Champlain and 
Oswego canals, and carried an appropriation of $37,200,ooo. 1 
The substitute bill, however, did not pass the Assembly. 
The session closed without enacting any canal improvement 
measure. There were, however, some steps taken toward 
canal improvement in this State. It was during that session 
that I formulated and introduced in the Senate the pro- 
posed constitutional amendment, adding a new section to 
Article 7 of the Constitution, to be known as Section 11. 

1. See Assembly Journal for 1902, p. 2823- 


which provided for the application of the surplus moneys 
of the treasury to the liquidation of the bonded indebtedness 
of the State, by providing that such surplus moneys be set 
apart in the sinking fund to meet the interest and principal 
of the bonded indebtedness of the State, provided the same 
were sufficient, and in such event to suspend the provisions 
of Section 4 of Article 7, requiring the imposition of a direct 
annual tax to raise money to meet the principal and accru- 
ing interest of the bonded indebtedness of the State. 1 That 
constitutional provision was passed through the Senate and 
Assembly without amendment and it also passed the next 
session of the Legislature and was approved by popular 
vote in 1905, and has enabled the State to set apart from its 
surplus funds sufficient moneys to create a sinking fund to 
meet the principal of the bonded indebtedness and to pay the 
accruing interest of such indebtedness without the imposi- 
tion of a direct tax during the last three fiscal years. 

During the legislative session of 1903, I formulated and 
introduced a proposed amendment to Section 4 of Article 7 
of the Constitution, extending the bonding period for which 
State debts might be authorized, from eighteen to fifty 
years. That amendment passed the Legislature of 1903 
and 1905, and was approved by popular vote at the general 
election in the latter year. These two constitutional amend- 
ments are now in operation, and work a substantial modifi- 
cation of the fiscal policy of the State with reference to the 
creation and liquidation of State debts which have assumed 
large proportions owing to vast public improvements re- 
cently undertaken. 

The modern method of financing large undertakings in- 
volving the creation of a bonded indebtedness, is to spread 
the payment over a long period of time and thereby relieve 
the present generation from full payment; and this seems 
to be justified inasmuch as the benefits will accrue quite as 
much to succeeding generations as to the present one. 

The failure of the Legislature to pass the canal referen- 
dum measure of 1902 was not attributable so much to the 
indisposition of the people to go forward with canal im- 

1. lb. p. 74. 


provement as it was to the differences of opinion that ob- 
tained among canal advocates as to the character and ex- 
tent of the improvement. The Governor and more conser- 
vative advocates were responsible for the introduction of 
the referendum measures of 1901 and 1902. The first en- 
countered not only the opposition of the anti-canal rural 
counties, but also that of the ultra canal advocates, who 
favored a much more capacious waterway, ranging from! a 
1 4- foot waterway to a ship canal. The second measure was 
opposed by the anti-canal rural counties and by such canal 
counties as were not included in the scope of the improve- 
ment. Chief among these was Oswego, which, from' the 
first, had been a strong canal county and whose commerce 
on Lake Ontario ran back to the early part of the 18th cen- 

The contention that the tonnage over the Oswego canal 
had been relatively smaller than that over the Cham plain 
and Erie canals, and therefore was not such as to warrant 
a large expenditure of money for further improvement, it 
was claimed (by such representative citizens as the chair- 
man of the Assembly Canal Committee, the Hon. Thomas 
D. Lewis, Assemblyman Thomas M. Costello, Senator Ne- 
vada N. Stranahan, Hon. George B. Sloan, Col. John T. 
Mott, Hon. Patrick W. Cullinan, Frederick O. Clarke, and 
others), left out of consideration the fact that, the tonnage 
of the Oswego transported east and west of Syracuse was 
credited to the Erie to the disparagement of the former. It 
was also claimed that, although Sodus and Irondequoit bays 
were originally promising Ontario ports, Oswego had out- 
stripped these and all others; and in consideration of the 
further fact that the tonnage over the improved Canadian 
waterways would be more or less tributary to that of the 
Oswego canal, as had been the tonnage over Canadian 
waterways in the past, that whatever improvement was de- 
cided upon for the Erie and Champlain canals, the same 
ought to be extended to the Oswego. 

As it has already been shown, Oswego had been the 
principal trading post and commercial port on Lake On- 
tario for nearly two centuries, notwithstanding the early 


trade relations at Niagara and the large importations at 
Ogdensburg on the St. Lawrence, making the latter port 
one of the principal ones on the northern frontier, whose 
harbor is being improved under the supervision of the Fed- 
eral Government through the efforts of Congressman George 
R. Malby, for many years a leading member of the Legisla- 
ture and at one time Speaker of the Assembly, and from 
1901 to 1905 chairman of the Finance Committee of the 

The Oswego harbor had also been improved by Federal 
aid and large appropriations were being made from time 
to time for the construction of its breakwaters. In view of 
the insistency of the Oswego representatives to have their 
canal improved along with the Erie and Champlain canals, 
and the reasonableness of their claim, it was apparent to all 
familiar with legislative procedure that the canal improve- 
ment project would not be easily won without their aid and 
possibly not against their opposition, for they were strongly 
represented in the Senate by Hon. Nevada N. Stranahan 
and in the Assembly by Hon. Thomas D. Lewis, chairman 
of the Canal Committee. Furthermore, it was apparent to 
all that the improvement of the Oswego would intercom- 
municate with Lake Ontario at a point intermediate be- 
tween the Niagara on the west and Ogdensburg on the 
northeast, and afford accommodations not only for the com- 
merce of Lake Ontario, but for a large flotilla of other craft 
that plied in and about the Thousand Islands and on the 
waters of the upper St. Lawrence. 

During the summer and fall of 1902, political parties 
were engaged in a fierce contest for the control of the State 
government. Governor Benjamin B. Odell, Jr., was elected 
by a plurality of less than 10,000 votes over Bird S. Coler. 
The contest absorbed public attention to the exclusion of 
canal and other public questions. The canal question, how- 
ever, continued to receive the consideration of commercial 
bodies and legislative candidates in counties where canal 
sentiment was strong. 

On December 23, 1902, Flon. Warner Miller, ex-United 
States Senator, addressed a letter to Governor Odell on the 
canal question, in which he said : 


"The iooo ton barge canal cannot be constructed in less than eight 
years, and many persons competent to form an opinion believe it will 
take nearer twelve years than eight. In that length of time the 
danger to our commerce will have worked its evil consequences, and 
a large part of trade will have been diverted through other channels 
to our rival ports, never to be recovered. 

"As we owe our present high position commercially largely to 
the Erie canal, it is but natural that we should look to some plan of 
improving the canal to enable us to hold our position of advantage." 

After discussing several plans that had been theretofore 
made by the State Engineer Mr. Bond, he says: 

"The nine-foot improvement can be easily finished in three years. 
With the money all appropriated, and with push and vigor, it can 
be done in two years. Then, boats carrying 450 tons instead of 220, 
can make the trip from Buffalo to New York in one-half the time 
now required, and the actual cost of carrying a bushel of wheat from 
Buffalo to New York will be less than one cent — probably not more 
than three-quarters of a cent. While the improvement of the canal 
is going forward there should be built on State land at Niagara Falls 
an electric power plant of sufficient capacity to move all the tonnage 
that can pass through such a canal, which is estimated by experts to 
be from io,ooo,coo to 15,000,000 tons. Put railroad tracks on the 
towpath (which is already graded) for electric locomotives. Use 
the power from Niagara as far east as may be found feasible. For 
the eastern portion of the canal, the Oswego and the Champlain 
canals bring down electricity from the Adirondacks, or, if an expert 
examination should show it to be desirable, a power plant could be 
built in Utica or Schenectady, thus operating the whole length of the 
canal by electric power. If the plan of diverting the canal through 
Oneida Lake should be followed, that portion would be operated by 
tugs if the electric plants were not in readiness when the improve- 
ment was completed. An electric engine would haul easily four to 
six boats of 450 tons each, or 1800 to 2700 tons, and would move 
them from three to four miles per hour, thus reducing the time of a 
trip one-half, and thereby doubling the season's work of each boat." 

Senator Miller in this letter argues against the 1000-ton 
barge canal and in favor of the nine-foot improvement, 
which would accommodate 400 to 450-ton barges. This 
was known as the Seymour-Adams plan, recommended by 
Horatio Seymour, Jr., and especially by Campbell W. 


Adams, both state engineers at different times, but with the 
additional feature of electricity for propulsion. 1 

The contents of this letter undoubtedly led Governor 
Odell to insert in his message to the Legislature the sug- 
gestion for the electric equipment of the canal system of the 
State. I have already stated that the German Government 
had provided the Teltow canal with modern electric equip- 
ment for hauling vessels along its course and that experi- 
ment may have led to the suggestion on the part of Senator 
Miller that electricity might be successfully applied as a 
means of propulsion of vessels over our waterways. 2 But 
Dr. Leo Sympher of Berlin informed rne in 1905 that as yet 
electric propulsion on long* hauls had not passed its experi- 
mental stage and it was impossible to tell whether or not it 
would be a success commercially, and Mr. Clinton in re- 
sponse to the suggestions of Governor Odell assigned other 
reasons which, to him, appeared conclusive against the use 
of electric propulsion on the canals of this State, as will 
appear hereafter in his argument before the joint canal com- 
mittees of the Senate and Assembly. 

The experiments in electric haulage near Bauvin, France, 
however, were such as to justify the construction of a plant 
to provide for canal propulsion for that waterway, over 
which were transported large quantities of coal to Paris. 
On this canal the haul was short and the traffic heavy, so 
that electric propulsion might be used with profit. 5 

In his message to the Legislature on January 7, 1903, 
Governor Odell said : 

"I have endeavored to give this subject the consideration which 
its importance demands and have heretofore expressed myself and 
now reaffirm my belief in the thousand-ton barge plan. I cannot 
urge too strongly upon the Legislature the necessity for immediate 
attention to this important problem and while recommending that 
every consideration shall be given to the various interests involved, 
we should recollect that above every other claim the prosperity and 
upbuilding of our State are foremost. While giving all weight to 

1. Sec Report of N. V. State Engineer Adams for 1897. 

2. See p. 116 supra. 

3. See Report of N. Y. Canal Committee for 1900, p. ;j. 

i. N. Y. Assembly Journal, 1903, pp. 3016, 3017. 
2. N. Y. Assembly Journal, 1903, p. 3018. 


the expense involved, we should not be deterred from any expendi- 
ture that will hold the supremacy of which we are all justly proud. 
I hope that the conclusion reached may be so supported by data and 
figures that there shall be no dissent from the deductions which are 
thus arrived at, and that the people may be put in possession of every 
detail that is necessary to enable them to speedily pass upon and ex- 
press their approval or disapproval of the plans to be submitted. 

"In my last message I advocated the deepening of the canals to a 
nine-foot level, with locks capable and large enough to provide for 
one thousand-ton barge tonnage. To this subsequently suggestions 
were added that both the Oswego and the Champlain canals should 
be equally enlarged. This proposed measure failed of passage, I am 
convinced, because of an honest belief upon the part of many mem- 
bers of the Legislature that the plan proposed was inadequate to 
meet the requirements of commerce." 1 

In this message the Governor discusses the so-called On- 
tario route, and calls attention to the fact "that at the time 
when the canal traffic would be at its heaviest, it would be 
impossible because of adverse winds and dangers of navi- 
gi tion" to navigate Lake Ontario. Continuing he says : 

"So we are forced to the conclusion that the only practical route 
for canal traffic for a thousand-ton barge would be along the more 
expensive line which can only be built at a cost under the State En- 
gineers estimate, and assuming that the bonds were for fifty years 
and the interest at three per cent, of $193,980,967.50, principal and 
interest. This plan only contemplates the deepening of the Cham- 
plain canal to seven feet, but the advocates of canal improvement 
now desire that it should be deepened to a twelve-foot level, which 
would increase the cost to $2i5,ooo,ooo." 2 

Governor Odell discussed several other phases of the 
problem in this message and lay emphasis upon the point 
that something ought to be done to prevent the withdrawal 
of commerce. He suggested the introduction of electric 
motors and the electric equipment for the rapid propulsion 
of vessels over the existing waterway which might obviate 
the necessity of the construction of a thousand-ton barge 
canal. He also suggested that if the thousand-ton barge 


canal plan wore authorized, he would- "recommend the 
adoption of a concurrent resolution providing for the re- 
imposition of limited tolls, which would, perhaps, produce 
revenue enough to provide for the maintenance of the canal, 
believing that the lowering of the freight rates would be so 
great that a tollage could be easily met without interfering 
with the results which it hoped to accomplish under this 
plan." 1 

The effect of this message upon public sentiment was to 
encourage canal advocates in various parts of the State to 
unite upon the barge canal project in its full extent. 

The commercial bodies of New York City, represented as 
they were in the Canal Enlargement Association of Greater 
New York under the chairmanship of the Hon. Henry B. 
Hebert, a forceful and strong advocate in 1899 of a four- 
teen-foot canal, were united on the barge canal project that 
had been recommended by the Green Commission, and of 
which surveys had been made by the State Engineer and 
Surveyor in 1900. Accordingly in the early winter a bill 
was prepared by Major Thomas W. Symons, Hon. Abel E. 
Blackmar, and others, providing for the construction of a 
barge canal from the Great Lakes to tidewater. The bill 
was introduced in the Assembly by Charles F. Bostwick, on 
January 15, 1903, and carried an appropriation of $81,- 
000,000 for the improvement of the Erie canal, the Oswego 
canal and the Champlain canal. 2 It provided for deepening 
the Erie and Oswego canals twelve feet, and the Champlain 
canal seven feet. j 

A conference was held in Albany on January 26, 1903, 
of the representatives of commercial bodies in New York, 
Oswego and Buffalo, which was attended by Alfred Haines 
and George Clinton of Buffalo; Gustav H. Schwab, William 
R. Corwine, Prof. William H. Burr and Abel E. Blackmar 
of New York; E. S. Morrison and Major Thomas W. 
Symons of Washington ; Frank S. Witherbee of Port 
Henry; and Frederick O. Clarke of Oswego. At this con- 

1. Ib., p. 3019. 

2. Ib., pp. 36, 37. 


ference William H. Burr, professor of engineering in Co- 
lumbia University and a member of the Isthmian Canal 
Commission, explained the method whereby the plans and 
estimates for the barge canal were made; and the prominent 
engineers employed by Edward A. Bond, State Engineer 
and Surveyor, in reaching the conclusions set forth in his 
report under the survey bill. 

As a result of this conference the canal bill was modified 
in some respects and the authorized bond issue somewhat 
increased before its introduction in the Senate. As so modi- 
fied it was introduced by Senator George A. Davis, chair- 
man of the Senate Canal Committee, on January 28, 1903. 
and was entitled "An act making provision for issuing bonds 
to the amount of not to exceed $82,000,000 for the improve- 
ment of the Erie canal, the Oswego canal and the Cham- 
plain canal, and providing for the submission of the same 
to the people to be voted upon at the general election to be 
held in the year 1903." * It was thereupon referred to the 
Committee on Canals. 

On January /th, I had introduced a proposed constitu- 
tional amendment, adding a new section to article 7 of the 
Constitution to be known as section 11 thereof. 2 A concur- 
rent resolution was introduced in the Assembly by Assem- 
blyman Samuel Percy Hooker on February 2d, 3 proposing 
an amendment to article 7 of the Constitution to authorize 
the construction of a railway by the State in the bed of the 
canal and its lease upon terms stated in the resolution. It 
was referred to the Judiciary Committee but was never re- 
ported therefrom. The introducer of this resolution main- 
tained that such railway would relieve the terminal conges- 
tion and would be more efficacious than any other means of 
transportation except a ship canal through the State. He 
conceded that many members of the Legislature assumed 
that this resolution was only introduced to impede the pas- 
sage of the referendum measure. 

1. N. Y. Senate Journal, 1903, p. 66. 

2. lb., p. 15. 

3. N. Y. Assembly Journal, 1903, p. 133. 


XXIII. Legislative Strife Over the Canal Measures. 

The canal measures encountered strong opposition im- 
mediately upon their introduction. Organizations were ef- 
fected in various parts of the State and representatives were 
sent to Albany to appear before legislative committees at 
hearings upon these measures. Among these was the vet- 
eran editor and canal opponent, Hon. John I. Piatt of 
Poughkeepsie, who called in question Governor OdelFs posi- 
tion on the canal question as indicated in his campaign 
speeches and message to the Legislature. To this Governor 
Odell replied in substance, that in his letter of acceptance 
and his message to the Legislature he had clearly indicated 
that he favored canal legislation, and desired that a propo- 
sition be submitted to the people at the next general elec- 
tion. Mr. Piatt further stated on that occasion that the 
Governor told him that he was not pledged to any particular 
scheme and that the anti-canal men would not have to fight 
him as well as the canal men. Later Mr. Piatt modified his 
last remark. 1 

Others appeared in opposition to the measure. A large 
number appeared in favor of it, including such well-known 
advocates as George Clinton, Gustav H. Schwab, Major 
Thomas W. Symons, William F. King, S. C. Meade of the 
Merchants' Association of New York, Captain William E. 
Geary, Frederick O. Clarke, W. A. Norris of Fort Ann, 
and George Ii. Raymond of Buffalo. In his speech Mr. 
Clinton summarized the arguments in favor of canal im- 
provement and called.- special attention to the fact that "no 
scheme of electric propulsion would work on the canal, as it 
would confine it and its benefits to the few or the individuals 
who could use the patented devices for employing electricity 
as a motor power. This would not do. The canals should 
be free to all. If the improved barge canal did no more 
than regulate railroad freight rates, it would be enough to 
warrant its construction. Commerce followed the lines of 
least resistance and it was the duty of New York State to 
make the lines of resistance here as small as possible. This 

i. Abstract in the Buffalo Commercial Advertiser, Feb. 4, 1903. 


could be done by the improved canal." Mr. Clinton also 
spoke of shipments of ore from the West and the building 
up of the great steel industries in Erie county, and said : 
"Such steel and iron plants would spring up along the canal 
as soon as the ore from the mines and the coal could be 
brought to them by a waterway with low freight rates." * 

Hon. Gustav H. Schwab on that occasion presented a 
long and forceful argument in advocacy of the Senate and 
Assembly bills, in which he reviewed the commerce of the 
port of New York and the foreign commerce of the country, 
and made an unanswerable argument in support of the canal 
measures and the resulting benefits to the State from the 
construction of the barge canal and the resulting commerce 
over the same. In the course of this argument, he said : 

"In connection with this nine-foot plan of canal improvement, the 
application of electricity to the work of towing upon the canal has 
been resurrected. This plan has been frequently discussed in former 
years, and found impracticable. 

"The advocates of the ship canal scheme present a very fascinating 
and attractive picture of ocean-going steamers taking freight directly 
from the western lake cities, through the lakes and the canal, and 
across the ocean, without breaking bulk. To compete with the ocean 
carrier of the present day, such steamers would have to be of such 
capacity as to draw at least 30 feet to 33 feet. They will, therefore, 
require a depth in the canal of 35 feet, with corresponding width and 
size of locks. They will furthermore require an entire reconstruction 
of the channels between the lakes and of the harbor works in all lake 
cities. A ship canal of the depth required and all this reconstruction 
work on the lakes would involve enormous sums of money never 
heretofore reached in canal construction. Does any one suppose 
that the Congress of the United States would ever consent to under- 
take a work of this magnitude, which would inevitably be the signal 
for demands from all parts of the Union for the execution of works 
of similar magnitude in favor of particular localities? New York 
State would necessarily be obliged to surrender the Erie Canal, and 
New York's commerce and industries, so far as they depend upon a 
canal, would thenceforth be at the mercy of a Congressional majority 
for the appropriations necessary from time to time to maintain the 
canal and the lake channels and harbors." 

1. lb., Feb. 4, 1903. 


"But assuming that all these difficulties, which certainly appear 
insurmountable, can be overcome, what would be gained thereby? 
A ship canal that would not be used by ocean-going steamers ! The 
type of vessel used for ocean transportation is totally different from 
the type in use on the lakes, as the type of vessel on the lakes again 
differs from that in use on the canals. The ocean-going steamer is 
built to withstand the storms and heavy weather of the North At- 
lantic Ocean, and therefore costs twice as much as the lake steamer, 
which is built for service during only the spring, summer and fall 
months, being laid up curing the winter. The canal barge, on the 
other hand, is a cheap affair comparatively, and costs approximately 
one-quarter of the price of a lake steamer. In the opinion of ship 
builders, it is absolutely impossible to combine the three types in one 
vessel that would be economical for the trip through the three kinds 
of navigation required, lake, canal and ocean. An ocean steamer 
of costly build could not make a belter rate of progress through the 
canal than five or six miles an hour, whereas she is built to make a 
speed of two or three times as much. The result would be that the 
great expense attendant upon the navigation of the canal by an ocean 
steamer would prove prohibitive. The lake and the canal vessels, 
burdened with a much smaller cost of construction and maintenance, 
could run much more economically, and would take away the trade 
from the ocean steamer. The attempt has been made to run steamers 
from Chicago through the Welland canal, down the St. Lawrence, to 
Liverpool. Two or three trips were sufficient to prove the imprac- 
ticability of this combined navigation, and the steamers were then 

"Mr. Thomas C. Keefcr, Ottawa, Canada, past-president of the 
American Society of Civil Engineers, makes the following statement: 

"'As regards the St. Lawrence river, I may state that we find it 
is better to keep the large vessels or propellers on the lakes, where 
they can move faster and make more trips in the season of naviga- 
tion. Very few descend below Kingston, and from there to Montreal 
barges are used. The barges are loaded at Kingston from the vessel 
and taken down the river, and business is done more economically in 
this way than could be done by taking the lake vessels down.' 

"The ship canal, in view of all these objections, cannot for a mo- 
ment be seriously considered in connection with the improvement of 
the waterways of the State of New York, and the argument for such 
a ship canal can only be used as an obstruction to any improvement. 

"The Ontario route for a iooo-ton barge canal : 

"To navigate the waters of Lake Ontario and the canal, vessels 
must be stronger built and heavier than those vessels that are con- 


fined to canal navigation, and it can be stated on the authority of 
competent ship builders that the additional cost of a vessel capable 
of navigating Lake Ontario and the canal would be approximately 
i oo per cent, more than that of an ordinary canal boat. This would 
involve a much higher interest charge on the combined lake and canal 
vessel. The heavier construction of a vessel capable of navigating 
Lake Ontario and the canal would cause a loss in carrying capacity 
.-mounting to not less than 10 per cent. A fleet of four boats of 
jooo tons capacity each would therefore suffer a loss in carrying 
capacity of at least 400 tons. The cost of maintenance and operation 
of such boats would necessarily be higher than ordinary canal boats, 
as not only more men would be required, but crews of higher train- 
ing and, therefore, better paid. The weather conditions during the 
early spring and fall on Lake Ontario are such as to render the tow- 
ing of barges between the ports of Olcott and Oswego not only 
dangerous, but at certain times impracticable; and only steel barges, 
of great strength, fitted with sealed hatches, and well found with 
anchors and chains, would be able to make the passage with im- 
punity. In the opinion of those most competent to judge, canal boats 
could not be handled over this lake route during the entire season. 
Insurance companies in New York, with reference to the insurance 
of vessels on Lake Ontario, state that as underwriters no amount of 
premium would tempt them to cover the present type of canal boat 
for traffic on Lake Ontario. They say that even if a new fleet of 
canal boats were constructed to navigate Lake Ontario and the canal, 
and therefore of a more seaworthy type than the present type of 
boat, the rate for that part of the trip on the waters of Lake Ontario 
would be considerably higher than on the inland voyage during the 
summer months. In the fall of the year the rate would be from five 
to eight times as much as in midsummer, and this is confirmed by 
the insurance companies of Buffalo. The substitution of the lake 
route for that portion of the inland canal route between Buffalo and 
Syracuse would deprive a considerable part of the State from the 
benefits that are expected to result from the improved waterway. 
The objections to the Ontario route are, therefore, a greatly en- 
hanced cost of transportation, the impracticability of the route owing 
to the weather conditions during the spring and fall months, and the 
abandonment of a large part of the line of the present canal. 

"The 1000-ton barge canal on the Seneca-Oneida-Mohawk river 
route : 

"This is the route recommended by the Committee on Canals of 
New York State, appointed by Governor Roosevelt, after mature 


deliberation and careful investigation of all the factors entering into 
the problem. The committee in their very thorough report give, as 
the cost of transportation on the canal as improved and capable of 
carrying barges of 150 feet long, 25 feet wide, and 10 feet draft, .52 
mill per ton per mile, and the committee state as their conclusion : 

"'We feel confident that the larger project will result in a trans- 
portation cost across the State of New York as low as that by the 
St. Lawrence canals, which constitute their chief rival at present. 
far less than any rate which is possible by railroad at any time within 
the immediate future, equal substantially to the results which could 
be obtained by a large barge canal or a ship canal, and, in short, 
would be a complete and permanent solution of the canal problem. 
It would give New York advantages in the low cost of transportation 
and the commerce resulting therefrom, which would be possessed by 
no other State on the Atlantic Coast. 

" 'We believe it is unwise to spend large sums of money in a 
mere betterment of the existing canal; what the present situation 
requires is a radical change both in size and management and what 
we recommend is practically the construction of a new canal from 
Lake Erie to the Hudson river, following the present canal for some- 
thing over two-thirds of the distance, and new routes for the re- 
maining distance of a little less than one-third, and utilizing the 
present structures and prism so far as they can be made use of. We 
are firmly of the opinion that any less complete solution of the prob- 
lem will in the end prove to be unsatisfactory, and that while the 
sum of money required to put this into execution is large, yet the 
resources of the State are so enormous that the financial burden will 
be slight.' 

"The cost of railroad transportation cannot approach this rate, 
and it is, in the opinion of the Committee on Canals, as well as com- 
petent transportation managers, that it is not probable that railroad 
transportation can in the near future be reduced below three mills 
per ton per mile. The great function of the canal has been that of 
freight regulator, as has been clearly shown by the fact that during 
the summer months, when the canals are open, the railroad rates 
uniformily fall, while with the close of navigation on the canals the 
railroad rates are always raised." 

In this speech, Mr. Schwab quoted at length from an 
article prepared by S. A. Thompson and published in the 
Engineering News on the effect of waterways upon railway 
transportation in this and other countries, and presented 



many data bearing on the general subject under considera- 
tion. During the entire campaign for canal improvement 
and enlargement, Mr. Schwab was one of the most aggres- 
sive, intelligent and persuasive speakers on various ques- 
tions from time to time under discussion. There were other- 
speakers at this hearing. 

On February 17, 1903, a second hearing on the Davis- 
Bostwick bill occurred, which was a joint hearing held at 
the capitol, and there appeared in opposition to the measure 
E. B. Norris of Sodus, master of the State Grange, who ex- 
pressed himself in favor of a Federal ship canal, and as- 
serted that "farm property in Central New York had de- 
preciated 75%"; and W. N. Giles of Schenectady, secretary 
and representative of the State Grange, who presented reso- 
lutions of that organization in opposition to the canal 
project. There also appeared George A. Fuller, vice-presi- 
dent of the Watertown Produce Exchange, who argued for 
a trans-State waterway to be constructed by the Federal 
Government ; and Hon. John I. Piatt of Poughkeepsie, who 
cited the history of the railroad development in this country, 
showing that canal traffic had no effect on freight rates, and 
renewed his statement that the money paid for canal im- 
provement was a part of the cost of canal transportation. 
Former Assemblyman Robert J. Fish of the Oneida Cham- 
ber of Commerce objected to the bill on account of the pro- 
posed change of route from the present alignment through 
Oneida village to Wood creek and Oneida lake. Mr. A. H. 
Dewey of Ontario county, George H. Hyde of Cortland 
county and W. A. Rogers of Jefferson county, appeared and 
spoke in opposition to the canal bill. 

At this hearing there also appeared in favor of the meas- 
ure George S. Morison, ex-president of the Society of 
American Civil Engineers, member of the Isthmian Canal 
Commission and consulting engineer under Mr. Bond in 
making the survey for the barge canal, who made one of 
the principal arguments in favor of the measure at that 
hearing. Among other things he said: 


"When the waterways of a State are neglected as those of this 
State have been, it invariably follows that the business goes to the 
railways. When the waterways keep pace with the railroads the 
canals get their share of the traffic and act as regulators of railway 
rates. The Erie canal cannot in its present shape hope to compete 
with the railroads. Some of those who have spoken in opposition to 
this bill have favored a ship canal, but such a canal would be much 
more expensive and would be of greater interference to the country 
through which it would pass, as it would have to have a draw-bridge 
at every farm crossing. The proposition to build a ship canal 
through this State was taken up by the Federal Government some 
years ago, but was dropped because it was decided that such a canal 
would benefit New York State only." 1 

He also said that the estimates for the thousand-ton barge 
canal had been carefully made and that considerable assist- 
ance had been gained from the Government survey for a 
ship canal. 

In reply to some apprehension expressed as to the in- 
sufficiency of water to supply the barge canal, Mr. Morison 
said: "Less than one-tenth of the power put into a modem 
steamship would be sufficient to pump into the canal all the 
water that could possibly be needed." 

There also appeared David J. Howell, a consulting engi- 
neer in charge of the barge canal survey, who had thereto- 
fore been connected with the United States Deep Water- 
ways survey through the State, and who expressed the 
opinion that the barge canal could be constructed within the 
estimates made by the State Engineer and Surveyor. 

At this same hearing appeared also Hon, Abel E. Black- 
mar, counsel for the New York Produce Exchange, William 
F. King of the New York Merchants 5 Association and Hon. 
Edward R. O'Malley of Buffalo, who spoke in favor of the 
measure. Assembl) man O'Malley in closing the argument 
before the committee said: "Even if the cost of the im- 
proved canal had to be borne by direct taxation, the expense 
to individual taxpayers would be so little that no Granger 
could afford to leave his corn-husking- long enough to go a 
few miles to town to vote against it." 2 

1. Abstract in the Buffalo Nezvs, Feb. 18, 1903. 

2. lb. 


Senator George A. Davis, the introducer of the referen- 
dum measure in the Senate, and chairman of the Senate 
Canal Committee, presided over the joint hearings and oc- 
casionally indulged in a mild jeu d'esprit, much to the dis- 
comfort of the opponents of the measure. His skillfully- 
framed interrogatories propounded to them exposed the fal- 
lacy in their argument which was thus resolved into a re- 
ductio ad absurdum. It was evident from the opposition, 
which appeared openly to the canal referendum measure and 
from the introduction of counter propositions in the Legis- 
lature, such as the concurrent resolution presented by Sena- 
tor Henry S. Ambler, on January 23d, proposing an amend- 
ment to the Constitution by striking out section 8 of article 7, 
which is the section preventing the sale, lease or other dis- 
posal of the State canals, 1 and the bill introduced by Senator 
Merton E. Lewis, on February 19th, authorizing the Gov- 
ernor to appoint a commission to negotiate with and inquire 
whether the Government of the United States would under- 
take the construction of a deep waterway from Lake Erie to 
the Hudson river, and if so, upon what terms such work 
could be accomplished, 2 that the impending contest between 
the friends and foes of canal improvement was to be the 
most strenuous ever witnessed in the State. 

In reply to the editorial of Hon. John I. Piatt in the 
Poughkeepsie Daily Eagle, which urged upon members of 
the Legislature the passage of the Ambler resolution, I made 
the following answer : 

"I cannot subscribe to the editorial in the Daily Eagle in relation 
to Senator Ambler's proposed amendment in favor of the abolition 
of Section 8 of Article 7 of the Constitution, and very few have 
ventured the suggestion that permission be given for the sale of the 
canal properties of the State. It is generally conceded that the 
canal system of the State has promoted its commercial interests to 
that extent which has very largely made it the greatest commercial 
state in the Union, and blind must be the man to history, who does 
not recognize the transcendant importance of the canaJ system to 
the commercial supremacy of the State. Therefore highly as I 

1. N. V. State Journal, 1903, p. 56. 

2. lb., p. 223. 


esteem the Daily Eagle, I am compelled to dissent from its posi- 
tion in this matter and to oppose the passage of the Ambler resolu- 
tion and this I do in view of what the canals have achieved in pro- 
moting the commercial interests of the State of New York." 

XXIV. A Long Fight — The whole State aroused. 

In order to prepare for this contest, meetings were held 
in various parts of the State to formulate resolutions and 
appoint committees to aid in the passage of the referendum 
measure. On February 19th, the New York Chamber of 
Commerce convened for the purpose of considering the sub- 
ject. The meeting was attended by such well-known men 
as Hon. A. B. Hepburn, who was a member of the Legisla- 
ture when tolls were removed from the canals, and by ex- 
Mayor Schieren, Morris K. Jesup, Stephen W. Cary, Gustav 
H. Schwab and William F. King. At this meeting resolu- 
tions were adopted favoring the pending legislation. 

On February 20th, the new Canal Committee of the Mer- 
chants' Exchange of Buffalo convened and was presided 
over by Alfred Haines. This meeting was addressed by 
Theodore S. Fassett, Leonard Dodge, president of the Mer- 
chants' Exchange, Arthur W. Hickman, and others. The 
committee organized by electing Hon. George Clinton its 
permanent chairman ; Theodore S. Fassett its vice-chair- 
man, and George H. Raymond and Floward J. Smith its 
secretary and assistant secretary-. This committee consisted 
of fifty men and included in its membership such well-known 
canal men as C. Lee Abel, W. H. Andrews, Leslie J. Ben- 
nett, Henry W. Brendel, Warren C. Browne, William E. 
Carroll, Frank L. Danforth, Henry Erb, T. S. Fassett, F. C. 
Ferguson, Gordon W. Hall, Alfred Haines, A. I. Halloway, 
Charles M. Flelmer, L. M. Hewett, Arthur W. Hickman, 
Theo. Hofeller, Hon. John Laughlin, George W. Maltby, 
Hon. E. R. O'Malley, G. H. Raymond, John Roehrer, James 
M. Rozan, Edward C. Shafer, Howard J. Smith, L. Porter 
Smith, M. E. Taber, Frank Weaver and R. A. Eaton. 

The standing canal committee, or the Committee on 
Canals and Harbors in 1903, consisted of the following well- 


known canal advocates : J. J. H. Brown, W. E. Carroll, 
Marcus M. Drake, Edwin T. Evans, Harris Fosbinder, 
Robert R. Hefford, and George A. Ricker. 

In addition to these gentlemen man)- other Buffalonians 
have served in an official and unofficial capacity in all canal 
controversies and have devoted much time and considera- 
tion to this and other transportation questions affecting- the 
commercial development of Buffalo. 

The annual reports of the Merchants' Exchange and lat- 
terly of the Chamber of Commerce of Buffalo, will show 
that a diversity of interests were represented on the stand- 
ing committees of that organization who have had some 
part in the building up of the Queen City of the Lakes. The 
special committees designated to represent Buffalo at the 
canal hearings on the referendum measure fully realized the 
magnitude of the questions involved and the supreme im- 
portance to Buffalo's commercial future that those questions 
be solved favorably to its interests. 

During the hearings on the bill and on February 9, 1903, 
Assemblyman James T. Rogers, chairman of the Ways and 
Means Committee of the Assembly, offered a resolution in 
the Assembly in substance calling upon the State Engineer 
and Surveyor to furnish that body detailed information in 
regard to the cost of the barge canal, including bridges, 
dams, damages to property, storage, reservoirs, and increased 
cost of material and labor. 1 That resolution passed the As- 
sembly on the following day. After a second hearing on 
the referendum measure, pending the information sought 
by the Rogers resolution, little could be done other than to 
perfect local organizations throughout the State and solidify 
canal sentiment preparatory to such action as might be 
found necessary on the incoming of the report of the State 
Engineer and Surveyor in relation to the increased cost of 
the barge canal project. 

We have already seen what counter-propositions had been 
suggested to the barge canal measure and the desperate tac- 
tics resorted to by anti-canal forces within and without the 

I. N. Y. Assembly Journal, 1903, p. 217. 


Canal advocates realized that it behooved them, in the 
language of Ben Jonson : 

"For their own sakes to do things worthily." 

It was broadly asserted by the Binghamton Republican 
that "It is a fact easily demonstrated that the canals do not 
control railroad freight rates and they cannot compete with 
the railroads." The New York Sun, the Newburgh News, 
and some of the Rochester papers shared in this view. The 
Engineering News called attention to the fact that in 1895 
a commission was appointed by the United States Govern- 
ment, consisting of President James B. Angell of Michigan 
University, Lyman E. Cooley of Illinois, and John E. 
Russell of Massachusetts, to make an investigation of the 
project for a ship canal from the Great Lakes to the sea- 
board. It made its report in 1897, an appropriation wa- 
made to make surveys and the President appointed for that 
purpose Major Charles W. Raymond of the U. S. En- 
gineers, Alfred Noble and George Y. Wisner. The surveys 
were completed in 1900. The route is described in the En- 
gineering News as follows : 

"This route, beginning at Buffalo, follows down the Niagara 
river to La Salle, 15 miles. Here the canal proper begins and con- 
tinues for about ten miles to the Niagara escarpment, which is de- 
scended by a series of locks to the lower level of the Niagara river 
below the gorge. There are nine locks in ail between the level of 
Lake Erie and that of Lake Ontario, the difference of elevation being 
320 feet. Leaving the lowest lock of the series, a vessel would enter 
the lower Niagara river which is deep enough and wide enough for 
any ship afloat, and it follows down the river — which is really an 
arm of Lake Ontario — till it debouches into the lake six miles below. 
Thence the vessel proceeds through Lake Ontario to Oswego, dis- 
tant about one hundred miles from the mouth of the Niagara river. 
From Oswego the route is up the valley of the Oswego river, partly 
in an excavated channel, to the village of Fulton, where it turns up 
the valley of a small creek and continues across sand ridges to 
Oneida lake. The total distance from Lake Ontario to Lake Oneida 
is about 26 miles. The vessel then passes through Lake Oneida, a 
distance of about 21 miles, and then enters the longest section of 
excavated canal encountered, that from Lake Oneida to the Mohawk 


river at Herkimer, a distance of 43 miles. From Herkimer to near 
Rotterdam Junction, 55 miles, the Mohawk river is to be used, being 
converted by dams and locks into a system of slack water naviga- 
tion. Over a large part of this distance the vessel will be in a chan- 
nel of such depths and width that she can make as good time as on 
the open lake. At Rotterdam Junction the route leaves the Mohawk 
and passes through South Schenectady to the head of a small stream 
known as Norman's Kill. It follows the valley of this stream to the 
Hudson. Below this point about four million dollars will have to be 
spent on the Hudson river from the mouth of Norman's Kill to 
Hudson city to secure a 21-foot channel." 1 

The Ontario route was the original route traversed by 
the Indian and early traders, and was recommended in the 
report by Albert Gallatin and by the Surveyor-general, on 
the survey of James Geddes, as early as 180S. 2 Ever since 
that time, it has been favored by some engineers and among 
them, in these later years, by George W. Rafter, member of 
the American Society of Civil Engineers, who preferred the 
Oneida-Mohawk route to the St. Lawrence-Champlain 
route, 3 and by William Pierson Judson, member of the 
American Society of Civil Engineers and Deputy State 
Engineer, who prepared for the State Engineer and Sur- 
veyor a sketch of early projects, extending from the Great 
Lakes to tidewater. 4 The Canal Commissioners in 181 1, to 
avoid the diversion of our commerce to the St. Lawrence 
route and the building up of the commerce of Montreal to 
the loss of that of the port of New York, recommended the 
interior route for a canal to Lake Erie. 5 The perils which 
canal craft were unable to withstand on storm-swept Lake 
Ontario, involving insurance problems, operated in favor of 
the interior route, which has been maintained ever since. 
In advocacy of the Ontario route Mr. Judson, in an official 
report made to the State Engineer and Surveyor, Hon. 
Edward A. Bond, said: 

1. Quoted by Rochester Post-Express, Feb. 28, 1903. 

2. See supra, pp. 68, 71. 

3. See report of Committee on Canals for 1900, p. 448. 

4. See Bond's Barge Canal Report of 1901, p. 968. 

5. See 1 N. Y. Canals, 6.2-63. 


"The south shore of Lake Ontario, in the distance of no miles 
between Olcott and Oswego, has several United States harbors, in- 
cluding the two first named, and with all these harbors the writer 
is familiar, having, as United States assistant engineer, made re- 
peated surveys of all of them at various times between 1869 and 
1897, while in charge of their works. 

"In addition to these harbors, which are maintained by the Genera! 
Government, there are three lighthouses on points which have no 
harbors. The safety of boats navigating this part of Lake Ontario 
is thus amply provided for, especially in view of the further fact 
that this portion of Lake Ontario off-shore is entirely free from 
shoals and islands; the open lake being 400 to 600 feet deep, and 
there being no shoals or islands in it, except a shoal at the mouth 
of the Niagara river, eighteen miles west of Olcott, and shoals and 
islands at the extreme easterly end of the lake, thirty to fifty miles 
beyond Oswego. . . . 

"The creation of this canal route by way of Lake Ontario would 
in no way contribute to the Canadian commerce by way of the St. 
Lawrence, but would solely benefit the commerce of New York 
State by way of the Hudson river to New York. That it would not 
benefit Canadian commerce is evident when it is considered that the 
Canadians already have the Welland canal with two feet greater 
depth and with much larger locks than proposed, by which com- 
merce now has full access to the St Lawrence route. 

"From a common point in Lake Erie, seventeen miles up the 
lake from Buffalo and opposite to the entrance to the Welland canal, 
the distance to be traversed to a common point in Lake Ontario op- 
posite to Olcott is practically the same, being sixty-six statute miles 
by way of the Welland canal and sixty-three statute miles by way 
of the Niagara river and the proposed barge canal and Olcott. It 
has already been proven by actual experience that 240-ton boats, 
built to navigate the present Erie canal, can safely be towed on Lake 
Erie and can be used in traffic from the ports on Lake Erie to 
Buffalo. This fact being established, it is evident that boats for the 
proposed 1000-ton barge canal, being four times as large as the 
present Erie canal boats, can, with equal or greater safety, navigate 
Lake Ontario, which is more favorable for navigation than Lake 
Erie — Lake Erie being comparatively shallow, 40 to 90 feet in depth, 
and more quickly disturbed by storm, while Lake Ontario is 400 to 
600 feet deep and less easily affected. J 

"With the numerous harbors which have been described there is 
no question that 1000-ton barge canal boats can be towed with safety 
during the canal season (April-November) through Lake Erie, 


through Lake Ontario to Oswego, from which the greater part of 
the route to the Hudson river will lie through the open waters of 
the Oswego and Oneida rivers, Oneida lake and the Mohawk river. 
It is worthy of consideration that when it is undertaken to enlarge 
the Erie canal by way of Oneida lake and the Oneida and Seneca 
rivers to Buffalo, such enlargement will take many years as well as 
many millions ; meantime by merely enlarging the Oswego canal and 
Oswego river for twenty miles from Three River Point down to 
Oswego, commerce can use this route and get into Lake Erie by way 
of the Welland canal' many years before they will be able to use the 
other route through the center of the State." 1 

This view, however, was not entertained by those fa- 
miliar with navigation on Lake Ontario, nor justified by the 
experience of the navigation of small vessels on Lake Erie, 
where on account of the frequent storms they are unable to 
do any appreciable part of the carrying trade. Vessel-men 
have never advocated the Ontario route and it is improb- 
able that they would invest any money in 1000-ton canal 
barges that were required to navigate Lake Ontario as part 
of the route from tide-water to Lake Erie. 

Still the anti-canal papers made use of this argument of 
Mr. Judson and called particular attention to the fact that 
the survey for the ship canal from the Great Lakes to the 
East comprised 102 miles of an artificial canal and 98 miles 
of canalized rivers, while 277 miles of the distance was 
through open lakes and rivers. The depth of the ship canal 
was to be 21 feet, the width 200 feet except through canal- 
ized rivers and open lakes. The estimated cost of the ship 
canal was $200,000,000 and it was asserted, evidently with- 
out fully understanding the delays incident to ship canai 
navigation, that vessels might pass from the Great Lakes 
to the Hudson river in less time than a barge could pass 
through the enlarged waterway. That assertion, however, 
is not justified by results of navigation of the Suez, the 
Manchester or the Kiel ship canals. 

Wide publicity was given to this resuscitated ship canal 
scheme during the discussion of the barge canal project, al- 

1. See annual report of State Engineer of New York for 190.2, pp. 60-61, 


though the General Government had taken no action what- 
ever since the survey was made in 1900 to further the pro- 
ject of a ship canal from the Great Lakes to tidewater, and 
this had to be met as were all other counter-propositions in 
the debates before the committees and on the floor of the 

Mr. Gustav H. Schwab and other gentlemen familiar 
with ship navigation addressed letters to the press of New 
York in opposition to this rival scheme and from a prac- 
tical standpoint as manager of one of the largest trans- 
Atlantic steamship lines, pointed out the impracticability of 
the operation of a ship canal through this State. The un- 
wisdom of the proposition of the construction of a ship 
canal through the State, which would involve the transfer 
of the Erie canal to the General Government, was clearly 
pointed out by the Hon. Abram S. Hewitt at a meeting at 
the Chamber of Commerce of the City of New York, on 
March 24, 1898. His statement on that occasion has never 
been successfully answered. These various schemes and 
counter-propositions to the barge canal measure confronted 
canal advocates when the barge canal propositions came on 
for consideration in the Legislature. 

The timely action of the Chamber of Commerce of the 
State of New York on this and other occasions was appre- 
ciated by the commercial interests of the State. In its an- 
nual reports may be found much information on the sub- 
ject, prepared from time to time by the Hon. Samuel B. 
Ruggles. The Chamber of Commerce as early as 1784 
favored the proposition to connect the Great Lakes with 
the Atlantic Ocean by canal, and had been a consistent sup- 
porter of every measure before the Legislature to increase 
the efficiency of the State's waterways from their inception 
under the direction of DeYVitt Clinton. In its official man- 
agement were such distinguished canal advocates as Morris 
K. Jessup, ex-Mayor Abram S. Hewitt, Governor and Vice- 
President Levi P. Morton, William E. Dodge, Charles S. 
Fairchild and ex-Mayor Seth Low, who took a broad, 
statesmanlike view of transportation problems in the State, 
and spoke on several occasions in advocacy of pursuing a 


liberal policy in canal development and in the administra- 
tion of the State's commercial affairs. 

The third joint hearing - on the Davis-Bostwick thousand- 
ton canal bill occurred at the capitol on February 24, 1903. 
At this hearing there appeared Prof. William H. Burr of 
Columbia University, who said : 

"The plans and estimates which are now before you were reached 
through a study by a body of engineers whose operations were char- 
acterized, I believe, by a degree of thoroughness and technical prep- 
aration which has. never been excelled in the consideration in any 
similar engineering question. Careful surveys were made. The 
board of consulting engineers and its staff not only made its own 
examinations through this State, but had before it a great mass of 
surveys and an examination of the most thorough kind made by the 
United States Deep Waterways Board, a large portion of whose 
work lay in this State along the line of the proposed waterway. . . . 
1 believe that all the exigencies that might attend the work, at any 
rate, all the natural exigencies which might attend the work in this 
State, were carefully kept in view, even the increased cost of work- 
ing in winter and the feasibility of Hood damage. I have given this 
matter very careful consideration since the present session of the 
Legislature ; and while there may be room for differences of opinion 
to some extent, I have been unable to conceive any substantial reason 
why the estimates made at that time will not hold at present." 1 

Hon. Henry B. Hebert, president of the Canal Associa- 
tion! of Greater New York, E. R. Coy ken dell of Rondout, 
I. N. Stebbins, president of the Orleans Fruit Growers' As- 
sociation ; W. H. Lewis, secretary of the Rome Cooperative 
Insurance Company; Hon. Gustav H. Schwab, William F. 
McConnell of the New York Board of Trade and Transpor- 
tation; G. L. Blakesley, J. Kurtz, Jr., and George Welsh, 
representing the Albany Lumber Dealers; Lion. John 
Laugh lin and George H. Raymond of the Merchants' Ex- 
change of Buffalo, and G. Wilson Jones of the New York 
State Retail Lumber Dealers' Association, all appeared in 
favor of the referendum measure. Mr. Hebert spoke prin- 
cipally of railroad freight differentials against New York- 
City; Mr. Coykendell favored the bill from the Hudson 

I. Abstract in the Buffalo Express, Feb. 25, 1903. 


river commerce viewpoint ; Mr. Stebbins and Mr. Lewis 
urged the report of the measure from the farmers' stand- 

At the suggestion of Mr. Schwab, Alfred Noble, presi- 
dent of the American Society of Civil Engineers, an engi- 
neer in charge of the Pennsylvania railroad tunnel, ad- 
dressed a letter to Chairman George A. Davis, in which be 
said : 

"At a meeting held on February 5, 1901, the Board of Advisory 
Engineers, of which I was a member, adopted the following resolu- 

" 'Resolved, That in the opinion of this Board the work (surveys 
and plans) has been done thoroughly and in a manner which meets 
its approval and that the estimates and reports in which the results 
of these surveys and work have been embodied are entitled to the 
confidence of the people of the State of New York. I voted for this 
resolution and still believe that the work can be done for the esti- 
mated amount approved therein, if carried on under efficient man- 
agement.' " 1 

On March 2nd the State Engineer and Surveyor, the 
Hon. Edward A. Bond, transmitted to the Assembly an 
official communication setting forth his answer seriatim to 
the questions propounded to him in the Rogers resolution, 
stating the total cost for the barge canal project as above 
outlined on the basis of the State of New York having to 
furnish its full cost and based upon the present price of 
labor and material, at $100,562,993. That included the ad- 
ditional cost of a barge canal from Waterford to Whitehall, 
which was estimated at $7,485, 133. - It will be observed 
that this total amount exceeded the estimates made in 1900 
by about $18,000,000. This latter sum comprises the addi- 
tional amount necessary for the improvement of the Cham- 
plain as above stated and the further sum of about $10,- 
000,000 due to the increase in the price of labor and ma- 
terial since the original estimates were made. 3 

1. Buffalo Express, Feb. 25, 1903. 

3. N. Y. Assembly Journal, 1903, pp. 592, 59S-600. 

3. lb. 


This report from the State Engineer increased the esti- 
mates several million dollars, which, added to the difficul- 
ties that beset the proposition. The bill as originally intro- 
duced provided for the enlarging of the Erie and Oswego 
canals to twelve feet in depth and the Champlain canal to 
seven feet in depth. That naturally aroused the opposition 
of the Champlain canal advocates, who contended that there 
was fully as much occasion for the enlargement of the 
Champlain canal as there was for the enlargement of the 
Oswego canal to the same dimensions as those prescribed 
for the Erie. Such well-known canal advocates as Assem- 
blyman James M. Graeff of Essex county, Hon. Frank S. 
Witherbee of Port Henry, Hon. John F. O'Brien, Secretary 
of State; Hon. John R. Myers, Hon. Smith M. Weed and 
James Averill, Jr., of Clinton county, Henry G. Burleigh 
"and William H. Cook of Whitehall, W. A. Norris of Fort 
Ann, and others, called attention to the history of the 
Champlain canal and the tonnage over it, and maintained 
that the industrial and commercial interests of the Cham- 
plain valley were dependent on cheap transportation to tide- 
water. The extensive iron ore deposits in Essex county, 
the paper mills at Glens Falls and elsewhere which received 
their supplies of pulp wood from Canada and the Champlain 
ports accustomed to receive their coal and merchandise from 
the Hudson river and vicinity, w r ere dependent on cheap 
transportation afforded by the Champlain canal, which could 
not be successfully navigated after the enlargement of the 
Erie and Oswego canals except by canal boats of small 
capacity and unable to compete with thousand-ton barges. 
Hon. Frank S. Witherbee of Port Henry, who was a mem- 
ber of the Green Canal Commission of 1899 and united with 
his colleagues of the commission in recommending* the 
barge canal improvement project, in a letter to State En- 
gineer Bond said : 

"If for six million dollars more the Champlain canal could be 
made a 12-foot canal, it seems to me to be a mistake not to include 
it in the Erie canal thousand-ton barge scheme, for such an in-, 
creased deepening of the Champlain canal would materially help to 
enlarge the Erie canal in its tonnage. ... If the Barge Canal bill 


were amended so as to authorize the construction of a barge canal 
along the line of the Champlain canal as well as along the line of the 
Erie and Oswego canals, as proposed in the bill, the grand total for 
the canal improvement named, based upon the estimates made in 
1900, would be about $88,000,000." 

Mr. Witherbee called attention to the fact that thousand - 
ton barges loaded with grain at Buffalo, for New York, on 
their return might pass through the Champlain canal to 
Lake Champlain and there load with iron ores and return 
through the Champlain and Erie canals to Buffalo to the 
Lackawanna Steel Company's furnaces ; and predicted that 
there would be from a half to a million tons of ore thus 
annually transported from Lake Champlain to Buffalo if 
the Champlain were so improved. 1 

The tonnage over the Champlain canal had ranged, dur- 
ing the last decade, from 800,000 to 1,000,000 tons annually, 
whereas the tonnage on the Oswego had ranged from 31,000 
to 184,000 tons annually. This argument was presented by 
Assemblyman Graeff to Governor Odell and to members of 
the Legislature who were disposed to acceed to the claims 
of the Champlain advocates. New York commercial bodies 
realized the force of the argument and the importance of 
connecting the Hudson river with Lake Champlain and 
thereby rendering the commerce of the latter tributary to 
the port of New York. 

For three centuries the Champlain and Hudson river 
valleys had been the highway of trade and travel, and there 
was no reason assigned why the Champlain canal ought 
not to be improved to the same capacity as the dimensions 
of the Erie and Oswego, other than that of the expense in- 
volved. It was clearly demonstrated that the saving of 50 
cents a ton on the freight passing through the Champlain 
canal would pay the interest on the State's investment of 
the additional sum necessary to make the improvement, and 
in time that saving would be equal to the principal. 

A conference of canal interests was called to consider 
this with other questions. The Hon. Abel E. Blackmar of 

Buffalo Courier, Feb. 24, 1903. 


New York was designated to represent the New York com- 
mercial bodies and Hon. George Clinton of Buffalo to rep- 
resent the up-State interests. These two gentlemen and my- 
self went over all the matters in difference and reached; the 
conclusion that the Champlain canal ought to be improved 
in the same manner as it was proposed to improve the Erie 
and Oswego canals. The bill was by us so amended as to 
accomplish that purpose and so as to provide the additional 
funds in accordance with the revised estimates of the State 
Engineer and Surveyor as hereinafter stated. That was the 
final form of the bill. As so amended, on March ioth it 
was submitted to a conference of canal advocates, attended 
by Senator George A. Davis, Assemblymen Charles F. Bost- 
wick and James M. GraefF, Hon. Abel E. Blackmar and 
myself. Mr. Bostwick stated that "the bill is now in final 
shape and is satisfactory to all interests. We felt that the 
enlargement of the Champlain to a thousand-ton barge canal 
would not be objectionable to the administration." Senator 
Davis said that he believed that "the bill was now in the 
form in which it will pass." Accordingly as the canal bill 
was finally revised by Mr. Clinton, Mr. Blackmar and my- 
self, it was framed to include the improvement of the Erie, 
Oswego and Champlain canals to the barge canal capacity 
and carried an appropriation of $101,000,000. This con- 
clusion was reached only after due deliberation, and it en- 
sured united action on the part of all canal interests, includ- 
ing the several counties along the route of the Champlain 
canal. There was thus averted the opposition of Champlain 
canal interests similar to that manifested the year before by 
the Oswego people which was sufficient to defeat the passage 
of canal measures. 

After the introduction of the canal referendum measure 
and during its consideration, Senator Merton E. Lewis of 
Rochester on February 19th, introduced a bill entitled, "An 
act to provide for the appointment of a commission to nego- 
tiate with and inquire whether the Government of the 
United States will undertake the construction of a deep 
waterway from Lake Erie to the Hudson river, and if so 
to ascertain upon what terms such work can be accomplished 


and making an appropriation to provide for the expense of 
such commission." 1 That bill was referred to the Com- 
mittee on Finance and reported from that committee < n 
March 17th, with Senators Grady, Foley, McCabe and 
McClellan dissenting therefrom. 2 

On or about March 13. 1903, a meeting" was held at the 
office of Andrew H. Green at 214 Broadway, New York 
City, attended by several prominent New York gentlemen, 
who adopted a resolution calling for an international con- 
vention including all the peoples of North America, for the 
purpose of a continental association to promote the construc- 
tion of a continental system of deep waterways and a sys- 
tem of water powers for irrigation of arid and arable lands 
of the continent. 

Among those asked to serve on this committee were Hon. 
Andrew H. Green, Frederick W. Seward, J. Edward 
Swanston, Paul Dana, William Hyatt Farrington, Du Mont 
Clark, J. Edward Simmons, Ludwig Nissen, Gardner D. 
Matthews, Henry Clews, John De Witt Warner, F. R. 
Olcott, Lyman J. Gage, Augustus D. Juilliard, Clarence W. 
Seamans, James S. Jarvie, A. P. Fitch, Charles S. Fair- 
child, George F. Seward, Charles T. Barney, Max Nathan, 
Henry Morgenthau, Robert C. Ogden, Louis Stern and 
Oscar Straus. 

This committee by resolution endorsed the bill introduced 
by Senator Merton E. Lewis, which they assumed asked 
"Congress to complete surveys for a canal thirty feet deep 
between the Great Lakes and Atlantic tidewater"; and in 
presenting a memorial in support thereof Ethan Allen is 
reported in the New York Tribune of March 14, 1903, to 
have said: 

"At the present time the cost of transportation in this country 
exceeds the cost of production. The charge for transporting the 
products of the Mississippi river to the Atlantic coast is so great as 
to check production and consumption and to limit the area in which 
production is profitable. More than half of the best steel steamships 
of the United States are imprisoned above Niagara Falls from De- 

1. N. Y. Senate Journal, 1903, p. 223. 

2. lb., p. 2523. 


rcriibcr 15th until April 1st. With deep sea canals open from Lake 
]■ lie to tidal Hudson those vessels can pass from the lakes in Decem- 
ber and engage in ocean service until the opening of navigation on 
[he lakes. The earnings on the seacoast would enable them to re- 
duce the charges of transportation on the lakes. Ten billions of 
dollars would construct a continental system of deep sea canals and 
create water power equal to fifty million horse-power or seven hun- 
dred million man power. By the conversion of this water power 
into electric power it could be used as a motive power for production 
or distribution. At the rate of $23 a horse-power a year, fifty million 
horse-power would command a rental of one billion, one hundred 
and fifty million a year, ov n l / 2 per cent, per year on the cost. On 
tin's basis the rental of water power would discharge the interest on 
the construction of the canals and water power and the cost of main- 
tenance, and create a sinking fund for the discharge of the principal 
within fifty years. Competent authorities estimate the available 
water power on this continent to be equal to one hundred million 
horse-power. The system outlined would give to American vessels 
absolute control for all time to come of the foreign commerce of this 
continent without subsidies being granted to them, and therefore 
save the two hundred million for subsidies proposed in the Hanna- 
Fry bill." 

This colossal continental canal scheme was given wide 
publicity and without clue consideration was endorsed by 
some papers, including the New York Mail and Express. 
They also favored the Lewis biH. 

The advocates of this measure had little hope of its final 
passage, but they thought they would be able to alienate 
some of the supporters of the referendum measure by pro- 
posing the alternative proposition of the construction by the 
Government of a ship canal from the Great Lakes to tide- 
water. That proposition had been repeatedly disapproved 
by those familiar with the scheme, and during the pendency 
of the Lewis bill its futility was again shown in a statement 
prepared by Hon. Frank S. Gardner, secretary of the Board 
of Trade and Transportation of New York, in which he 

"No commission that has investigated the subject for the General 
Government or for this State has ever reported that a ship canal will 
be 'commercially successful.' Commissions have reported that canals 


of certain depths can be constructed to float ships, and have esii 
mated the cost of same at various sums up to $600,000,000, but have 
never declared that a ship canal would be commercially successful. 

"A vessel must be adapted to the waters upon which it sails in 
order to attain the best results in transportation. Hence a vessel 
adapted to ocean conditions is not the cheapest carrier on the lakes, 
because the ocean vessel costs much more to build than the lake 
vessel, and a vessel adapted to lake navigation and built to give the 
lowest rate of transport on the lakes is not adapted to ocean condi- 
tions, because it is not strong enough for safety on the ocean, and 
neither the ocean nor the lake vessel is adapted to give the cheape>: 
transportation on a canal, because canal barges cost much less than 
either of the other types." . . . 

"The great mistake made by advocates of ship canals is in as- 
suming that a continuous trip will be made without transfer at New 
York from lake port to foreign port. This can not be done prac- 
tically. It can be done as a possibility and has been done via St. 
Lawrence, but always at a loss. Therefore — 

"1st. The commercial interests do not desire a deep waterway 
(meaning a ship canal). 

"2nd. A ship canal is not needed because it could not carry as 
cheaply as a thousand-ton barge canal. 

"3rd. A waterway to accommodate all ocean-going vessels is not 
desirable, because only the smallest of the ocean vessels, if they could 
go through a deep canal, could sail through the lake channels. 

"4th. A waterway accommodating large lake vessels only would 
be of no advantage because the barges could drive them off the canal 
by carrying much more cheaply. 

"5th. The 1,000 or 1,500 ton barge is preferable to either lake 
or ocean vessels on canals." 

The Lewis bill came on for final passage in the Senate on 
March 25th, and was defeated, the affirmative vote being- 
only 18 and the negative vote 27. 1 

XXV. Passage of the Referendum Measure. 

While the referendum measure was in process of perfec- 
tion and revision for final passage, still another alternative 
proposition was presented, March nth, to the joint meeting 
of the Senate and Assembly Canal Committees, by the In- 

1. Ib., p. 652. 


ternational Towing and Power Company, which was en- 
dorsed by F. O. Blockwell, Chief Engineer of the General 
Kk'ciric Company, and by St. John Clark, the engineer of 
the Rapid Transit Commission of New York. This involved 
on the part of the State the construction of an elevated 
traction-way outside the tow-path, with one rail above the 
other, so that motor cars thereon propelled by electricity 
might pass and repass without interference with each other 
and without obstructing the tow-path for horses hauling 

It was stated that the State might charge 50 cents per 
ton, and do the propelling of boats by that method at 29 
cents per ton on the Erie and Champlain canals; and that 
such electric equipment would cost, approximately, $7,- 
500,000. This was known as the Hawley System, and John 
Murray Mitchell, the counsel for the' company, stated that 
"One great advantage that this proposition has over all 
others, is that the State is certain that no railroad or trans- 
portation company would be able to buy or absorb the 
system or control its opera tion." 

This proposition was not acted upon favorably by either 
committee, but illustrates another phase of sentiment ever 
fertile in suggesting expedients to circumvent the passage 
of the referendum measure. 

Another strange proposition was that of former State 
Senator Charles A. Stadler, president of the American 
Malting Company, who proposed to take the canal off the 
hands of the State, agreeing to form a corporation to carry 
freight from Buffalo to New York in one-half— possibly 
one-third — the time required for canal boats, and at an ex- 
pense positively not greater than that of the "present anti- 
quated system." This was to be done by building an elec- 
tric or steam railroad in the canal bed, which would trans- 
port freights from Buffalo to the Hudson river at Albany 
in twenty-four hours, and then in large boats to New York 
City. This proposition also was so visionary as not to 
receive serious consideration, for the average railroad rate 
per ton mile in 1900 was said by George H. Daniels of the 
New York Central Railroad to be 5 9-10 mills, and few, if 

1. "Address of George H. Daniels before the Chamber of Commerce of Utica.' 
1900, pp. 8, 12. 

2. See report of the Committee on Canals of New York, 1900, p. 3. 

3. N. Y. Assembly Journal, 19-03, p. 630. 

4. lb., p. 1711. 

5. Sec. 4. article 7. N. Y. Constitution of 1894. 

6. Sec. 4. article 7, N. Y. Constitution of 1906. 


any, would admit that the facilities for the transportation 
of freight, over a railway built in the bed of the canal, 
would be superior to those of the New York Central system 
with its four tracks extending alongside the Erie canal 
nearly the whole distance from Buffalo to Albany, on which 
the modern type of locomotives is capable of hauling 
seventy-five loaded cars containing a thousand bushels of 
grain each. And still with the remarkable equipment the 
railroad rate in 1900 was said by Mr. Daniels to be 59-10 
mills per ton per mile, 1 more than ten times the cost of 
freight predicted (52-100 of a mill per ton per mile) by 
Major Thomas W. Symons on the barge canal. 2 

On the same day that the Hawley scheme was under 
consideration, Assemblyman Charles S. Plank of St. Law- 
rence county, presented in the Assembly a concurrent reso- 
lution "proposing an amendment to section 9 of article 7 
of the Constitution, relative to tolls for transportation ori 
the canals, 3 which was designed to permit the reimposition 
of tolls on boats navigating the canals. This was favorably 
reported by the Judiciary Committee on April 3d * and 
passed the Assembly on April 8th by 76 affirmative votes, 
a bare constitutional majority, with 50 votes against it. It 
was transmitted to the Senate, referred to the Judiciary 
Committee, but never reported therefrom. 

The provisions of the Constitution then in force and for 
many years prior thereto, inhibited the submission of a 
bonding referendum measure to the electors to be voted on 
at the same time that proposed constitutional amendments 
were submitted. 5 That provision, however, was eliminated 
from the Constitution in an amendment thereto which I 
introduced and which was passed in 1903 and again in 1905, 
and approved by popular vote at the election in the latter 
year. 6 


Prior to the latter amendment it required much attention 
in the Legislature to hold in check proposed amendments to 
the Constitution (and there were many and some very 
urgent ones presented annually), and to prevent their 
passage and submission at the same election at which it was 
desired to submit a canal bonding referendum measure as 
prescribed by the Constitution. That constitutional limita- 
tion was constantly confronting us during the legislative 
sessions of 1896 to 1905, and was wisely stricken from the 

The attitude of the press toward the Davis-Bostwick 
referendum measure was not assuring. The New York 
Sun, the Poughkeepsie Daily Eagle, the Newburgh News, 
some of the Albany and nearly all the Rochester papers, the 
Elmira and Binghamton papers, some of the Utica and 
Syracuse papers ,and the rural press in the north and south 
tiers of counties, where railroad influence was most effective, 
were quite generally hostile to the referendum measure. 
Others were alarmed at the magnitude of the revised esti- 
mates of the State Engineer and Surveyor, who in conclud- 
ing his report stated: 

"It has been my earnest endeavor to be perfectly unbiased in 
analysing and revising the estimates as covered in this report; and 
I have taken this position realizing that mine is an executive de- 
partment only established for carrying out the wishes of the people 
of the State as expressed by their chosen representatives, and in 
reaching these conclusions I have tried to be just to those who are 
advocating and believe in the barge-canal project, to those who are 
advocating and believe in what is known as the finishing of the nine- 
million work, and to those who believe that we should not spend 
more money in the enlargement of the canals, but simply maintain 
them in their present normal condition." 1 

The last class of journals above indicated withheld sup- 
port from the measure, although they did not openly oppose 
it. There were many others, including most of the metro- 
politan journals of New York, the Troy Times, which for 
many years under the aggressive supervision of the Hon. 

1. N. Y. Assembly Journal, 1903. p. 600. 


John M. Francis, had been a strong canal advocate; the 
Plattsburgh, Rome, Oswego, Dunkirk, Tonawanda, Lock- 
port, Niagara Falls, and all the Buffalo and many other 
papers, ably supported the measure as finally revised, carry- 
ing one hundred and one millions of dollars. The Bing- 
hamton Leader went so far as to publish a specialized report 
from Albany, stating that "Slowly but surely the scheme 
for strangling the plan for improving the State system of 
waterways progresses." This and other dispiriting reportb 
were given wide publicity from Montauk Point to James- 
town, from Binghamton to Ogdensburg, and formed a part 
of the hostile sentiment to the referendum measure that 
tended to defeat its passage through the Legislature. 

The Buffalo Evening News, in its aggressive and able 
advocacy of canal improvement, and in its keen analysis 
and complete refutation of many of the arguments of op- 
posing journals, rendered yeoman service in the cause of 
maintaining and upbuilding the commercial and industrial 
prestige of the State. The Buffalo Express, also, was a 
consistent advocate of canal improvement on a broad basis. 

There was opposition to the barge canals for various 
reasons. Quite naturally, the localities affected by the pro- 
posed change in route protested, although it had not been 
determined then (nor has it since been determined) that 
the existing canals will be abandoned. Among those who 
had long enjoyed the advantages of canal transportation in 
the Mohawk valley, was Daniel Spraker, Jr., of Sprakers. 
He keenly appreciated what the loss would be to his village 
if canal facilities were taken away. He issued circulars to 
the Canal Advisory Commission and others, and stated the 
objections to canalizing the Mohawk river in the following 
fashion : 

"As one of the recommendations of the Canal Advisory Commis- 
sion is to canalize the Mohawk river (contingent on the survey to 
be made) from Rexford Flats as far west as Little Falls, a little 
light thrown upon this subject would seem to be appropriate just at 
this time. 

"In my humble opinion the following results would follow the 
carrying out of such a scheme. 


"i st. The present canal between those two sections would be 
abandoned with all its State rights of way; and all of the expensive 
masonry structures, such as locks, aqueducts, culverts, bridges and 
other State property would be rendered useless and of no value. 

"2d. The canalizing of the Mohawk river and the abandonment 
of the present canal would be a great injury to the private interests 
of citizens and taxpayers who own property along the route of the 
present canal and have built thereon buildings for canal business 
purposes which they would not have done but for the canal, and for 
this reason this plan of canal improvement would be unpopular. 

"3d. The canalizing of the Mohawk river would compel the 
State to purchase new rights of way, the payment of land damages 
and the building of new locks, bridges and other permanent struc- 
tures. The above expenses would more than overbalance the lessen- 
ing the number of locks and the consequent reduction of the cost of 
management as contemplated in the change from canal to river. 

"4th. The Mohawk river is the natural drainage for the surplus 
water of the whole valley of the Mohawk; and for miles north and 
south on each side numerous creeks and rivers not far apart pour 
their floods into the Mohawk which is now carried down to the 
Hudson, and thence to the sea. Besides being a drainage for the 
water the Mohawk is a sluiceway for all the filth of the sewers of 
all the villages and cities along its banks. Therefore if this natural 
channel (the Mohawk river) is contracted or destroyed by making 
a canal of it the laws of nature would become perverted and the re- 
sult would be (besides the destruction of State property) the over- 
flowing of the valley by floods and the dissemination of disease 
caused by the collection of the filth of the sewers not being carried 
away by the river as now. This surplus water and filth of sewers 
cannot be disposed of by the river-canal as it would make too much 
of a current for the navigation of boats, as the water in the canal 
between locks must be kept on a level. As it is now the water in 
the canal is impure enough, but when you come to make a sluice- 
way of it for the whole valley (the river now being used for that 
purpose) the canal would be unendurable. The larger streams could 
be utilized as feeders to the improved canal on its present alignment 
which we believe is now the case in a large degree. 

"5th. The canalizing of the Mohawk river would change and 
contract its present current and cause it to overflow the New York 
Central railroad and carry away their tracks, culverts and bridges. 
When the river breaks up in the spring and often also during the 
winter it overflows its banks and the ice rushes down with great 


force which would greatly damage if not totally destroy all of the 
permanent structures of the canalized river. 

"6th. According to the present law much of the abandoned canal 
property would revert to the owners of the original land and the 
State would derive no benefit therefrom, and it is a constitutional 
question whether the canal can be legally abandoned. 

"7th. It would cost much more to canalize the Mohawk than to 
enlarge the present canal, and the cost of this matter will be an im- 
portant factor in the submission of this question to the people. 

"8th. The State owns land enough on each side of the canal to 
give it the proper width. If the boats are to be propelled by elec- 
tricity hereafter the present towing path will then be unnecessary 
and it can then be cut away for canal purposes. 

"9th. We do not wish to be misunderstood as being opposed to 
canal improvement. We are in favor of canal improvement and not 
of canal abandonment. We think canal improvement is necessary to 
preserve the commerce of the State, and is the only thing the people 
have to check the monopoly of the railroads. In trying to bring all 
of this about we must not forget that it must receive the sanction of 
the people at the polls. Therefore something tangible must be pre- 
sented to them for their approval. We are afraid that the river- 
canal would prove too intangible to win their approval. 

"10th. The idea of canalizing the historic Mohawk river sounds 
well and may be captivating to the minds of many, but when the 
matter is reasoned out in all its bearings and stripped of its romance 
it becomes an impracticability if not an impossibility. 

"If romance is to count for anything (in this practical age) in 
preserving this beautiful river from the taint of pollution we would 
invoke the muses in its behalf and will therefore quote from the 
famous poet, Thomas Moore, who sailed up this river when he vis- 
rted this country in its early history. The inspiration of the poet 
begins as follows : 

" 'From rise of morn till set of sun 
I've seen the mighty Mohawk run.' " 

The foregoing is a fair illustration of the incidental 
objections that were raised from time to time to the change 
in route and other problems, involved in projecting and 
carrying forward the campaign for canal improvement. 
Mr. Spraker for many years had been actively identified 
with canal transportation, and he felt called upon to present 
objections which he considered conclusive to the canaliza- 


tton of the Mohawk river. These objections, however, had 
been thoroughly canvassed by the Board of Advisory En- 
gineers, and they assert that their method of canalizing that 
river will be productive of successful results. The French 
Government succeeded in canalizing the Rhone, which is as 
impetuous, if not as torrential as the Mohawk. The German 
Government had successfully rectified the course of the 
Rhine and made that navigable. The Egyptian Govern- 
ment is now dredging the upper reaches of the River Nile 
for commercial as well as irrigation purposes. The policy 
of New York State has not been fully determined with ref- 
erence to its original canals after the barge canals are in 
operation. They may well be preserved to supply local 
demands for cheap transportation, and the 240-ton boats 
may still be used for that purpose as well as for navigating 
the barge canals. 

During the period of the barge canal agitation, there 
were distributed at various railway stations in the State, 
circulars, pamphlets and other anti-canal propaganda of 
various kinds, including editorials and such addresses as 
those of George H. Daniels, general passenger agent of the 
New York. Central & Hudson River Railroad Company, on 
the "Decline in Canal Traffic, " "What the Railroads Have 
Accomplished" and "Railroads Supercede Canals." Such 
dissertations might regale the credulous passengers, as they 
were whirled over the Four Track System, and lull them 
into acquiescence in the abandonment or surrender of their 
canal properties (then estimated worth one hundred million 
dollars), to railroad corporations, as was done in Pennsyl- 
vania, where may now be seen railway tiacks encroaching 
upon the banks and even occupying the prisms of aban- 
doned canals of that State, to the entire exclusion of all 
canal traffic thereon. That was the method pursued by 
railroad corporations to stifle competition in freight rates 
in that commonwealth. Some New York corporations were 
charged with similar designs upon the canal system of the 
State and their activity in the dissemination of anti-canal 
literature and the hostility of their employees to the project 
afford some basis for the charges. 


Public sentiment as indicated in the foregoing- recital of 
public hearings on the referendum measure and by the in- 
troduction of several alternative propositions already men- 
tioned and conflicting press dispatches and editorials, and 
the circulation of anti-canal propaganda, was far from being 
settled. Both political parties, however, had at their respec- 
tive State conventions declared in their platforms for canal 
improvement, provided that it could be carried forward 
without a return to direct taxation. Governor Odell had 
clearly indicated his position in his campaign speeches and 
in his annual message to the Legislature. In a general way 
it may be said that Greater New York, Buffalo, and some 
of the cities and towns in other counties in touch with canal 
transportation, favored the passage of the referendum 
measure; while other parts of the State, including Albany, 
Troy, Syracuse and Rochester, were against it. 

Notwithstanding the declarations in party platforms, a 
majority of the Republican leaders in both branches of the 
Legislature were opposed to its passage. In order to hold 
such members of the Legislature as were not fully advised 
as to the arguments made that led up to the canal referen- 
dum measure, it became necessary to present the facts and 
to state the reasons in the discussion of the subject in the 
Legislature. The opposition had left nothing undone to 
dissuade legislators from voting for it. It was character- 
ized as a colossal scheme, wholly unwarranted in this age 
when canals were fast becoming a thing of the past ; and it 
was declared that in the march of civilization waterways 
were giving way to railways, and a mule on the towpath 
was no longer a competitor of the colossal locomotive haul- 
ing from 50 to 75 loaded cars of 80,0-00 pounds capacity. 
Sarcasm, repartee and denunciation were freely indulged in 
by the press and in the debates on the measure. To the 
statement that it was a colossal undertaking, answer was 
made that this was an era of gigantic enterprises and: this 
imperial State would be content with nothing less. It was 
not complimentary to the sagacity or enterprise of its people 
to propose anything less stupendous than the largest water- 
wav demanded bv its growing commerce. 



In the densely populated countries of the Old World, 
where railways are largely a matter of public ownership, it 
had been found that they furnished inadequate transporta- 
tion facilities to supply the demands of commerce, and a 
similar condition was confronting this country. An Italian 
commission had recommended the construction of a system 
of canals in northern Italy, at an estimated cost of from 
fourteen to twenty-two millions of dollars. Germany was 
expending annually upwards of three and one-half millions 
of dollars to extend its 2237 kilometers of canals and other 
waterways. Austria had decided to construct interior water- 
ways during the next decade at an expenditure of upwards 
of sixty-five millions of dollars. The republic of France 
was carrying forward a system of vast internal waterway 
improvements, projected under the sagacious and aggressive 
statesmanship of M. de Freycinet, Minister of Public Works 
during the preceding twenty-five years, of upwards of two 
hundred million dollars. The Federal Government was 
negotiating for an Isthmian canal, the expense of which 
was predicted to range from two hundred to five hundred 
millions of dollars. The Chicago Drainage Canal District 
had expended forty-five millions of dollars in constructing 
the drainage canal, 29 miles long, with a depth of 22 feet, 
and a width from no to 200 feet on the bottom, and from 
198 to 200 feet on the top. Canada, less populous and less 
wealthy than New York, was soon to make surveys for a 
ship canal from the Georgian Bay to the tidewaters of the 
St. Lawrence, to be constructed at an estimated expense of 
one hundred millions of dollars, and that waterway, if con- 
structed, and other Canadian waterways, would constitute 
most formidable rival routes to the canals of this State. 
Some corporations were bonding their properties in many 
millions of dollars for terminal and other improvements, and 
New York City was spending fifty millions of dollars on its 

Notwithstanding all these undertakings, it was asserted 
that the people would hesitate to authorize an expenditure 
of any such sum of money as that authorized in the bill in 
constructing waterways from the Great Lakes on the west 


and Champlain on the north to the Hudson, even though it 
be at the risk of a loss of the vast commerce passing to and 
fro between those inland lakes and tidewater. With an 
equalized property valuation then of $5,754,400,382, and 
that rapidly increasing, was it possible that the people would 
refuse a bond issue of one hundred and one millions of dol- 
lars, which was but 1^4 P er centum of such valuation with 
that percentage decreasing as such valuation increased? 
With the State practically out of debt, was not the proposed 
expenditure so small a percentage of its assessed valuation 
as to cause no anxiety other than that of readjusting its 
fiscal policy to the new conditions that would exist if the 
measure were approved? No one familiar with what had 
been theretofore accomplished in waterway construction 
doubted that the people were competent to undertake and 
able to carry to completion the improvement and that it 
would do much to reestablish the commercial and industrial 
supremacy of the State over the other states of the Union. 

Notwithstanding, however, the consideration theretofore 
given the subject and the efforts put forth to make plain its 
provisions, there existed widespread distrust in some local- 
ities and open hostility in others as to the advisability of the 
passage of the referendum measure in its final form, and 
members of the Legislature were divided into two opposing 
factions. Friends of the measure expressed some appre- 
hension lest a majority of the members be swayed by the 
powerful opposition that had developed in some communities 
and let pass the opportunity of voting favorably upon it and 
of sending it to the people for their plebiscite, so that, if by 
them approved, canal construction might go forward. It 
was asserted that favorable action on this proposition would 
tend to hold our commerce against Canadian as well as all 
other rival routes. Under existing conditions the State was 
fast losing that commerce. Neither its canal nor railway 
facilities were adequate to hold it. It was then plain to all 
who had given the matter due consideration, that notwith- 
standing the increasing railway facilities, as it has since been 
well stated by Capt. A. T. Mahan, "water transportation 
must continue to fill a very large place in the circulation of 


fixTchandise which we call commerce," 1 and that without 
Iftis the cities of this State would not hold their commerce, 
but would eventually assume positions not unlike those of 
Pennsylvania after its canals were turned over to its railroad 
corporations or abandoned. 

Notwithstanding all this, and although it had been stated 
by such well-known engineers as Sylvanus Howe Sweet, in 
his "Documentary Sketch of the New York State Canals" 
that, "it remained for a free State of the New World to 
create a new era in the history of internal improvements and 
to complete an enterprise which had contributed more to the 
advancement of commerce and civilization than any similar 
work recorded in history," it was apparent to all familiar 
with conditions at Albany that the contest on the canal bill 
was to be one of the fiercest ever witnessed in the Legisla- 
ture. The bill was reported out of the Senate Canal Com- 
mittee on March 12th, amended to conform to the revised 
estimates of the State Engineer and Surveyor, and ordered 
reprinted. The seven members of the Canal Committee in 
attendance on that occasion, who voted, for its favorable re- 
port, were Senators George A. Davis and Samuel J. Rams- 
perger of Erie, Irving L'Hommedieu of Orleans county, 
Francis H. Gates of Madison county, John A. Hawkins and 
Walter C. Burton of Greater New York, and Spencer G. 
Prime of Essex county. 

As already stated, the Lewis bill providing for the ap- 
pointment of a commission to negotiate with the United 
States Government in relation to the construction of a deep 
waterway from Lake Erie to the Hudson, was reported on 
March 17th, although it had been voted upon favorably by 
that committee on the same day on which the Davis refer- 
endum measure had been voted on favorably. Senator 
Davis, the introducer of the measure, was insistent on se- 
curing a position on the calendar for the referendum bill in 
advance of the Lewis bill and was successful in accomplish- 
ing that result. The canal measure was advanced without 
debate to the order of the third reading on March 17th, the 

1. "The Hague Conference," by Capt. A. T. Mahan, in the National Re- 
view; reprinted 254 Littell's Living Age, p. 9. 


day the Lewis bill was reported by the Senate Finance Com- 
mittee, with the understanding that the bill would be de- 
bated on the third reading, and such amendments offered 
thereto as might have been offered in the Committee of the 
Whole. Senator Davis also insisted upon the passage of 
the canal bill prior to the passage of the excise and mort- 
gage tax bills then pending in the Legislature, exciting 
much comment and arousing deep-seated opposition on the 
part of the interests affected thereby. 

The Buffalo Evening News of March 21, 1903, said: 

"The position of Senator Henry W. Hill on questions involving 
any bills at Albany cannot be successfully assailed. He insists that 
the party pledge of last fall on the canal proposition be carried out 
before he will support the programme of the majority of his party 
associates in the Senate. He will not support the excise bill, and 
while he may support the mortgage tax bill he will not consent to 
any general legislation unless faith be kept with the people on the 
greatest question now pending in the State. . . . Senator Hill stood 
alone in his position at first. He is ably reinforced by Senator 
Davis, and together they control the order of precedence in voting 
on the bills." 

It was impossible for the Republican majority to pass 
the excise or mortgage tax measures without the votes of 
the two Erie County Republican senators, and they insisted 
on the passage of the canal measure in advance of these 
other measures. The canal referendum measure was finally 
reached on the Senate calendar on Tuesday, March 24, 1903, 
at 11.45 o'clock. Senator Merton E. Lewis of Monroe 
moved that the bill be recommitted to the Committee on 
Canals, with instructions to that committee to report it 
forthwith, amended by striking out all after the enacting 
clause and inserting in lieu thereof his bill authorizing the 
appointment of a commission to negotiate with the United 
States for the construction of a deep waterway from Lake 
Erie to the Hudson river. 1 He spoke at length in support 
of the motion and took occasion to review the results under 
the nine million dollar referendum measure of 1895, which 

1. N. Y. Senate Journal, 1903, p. 631. 


he characterized as a deliberate and willful waste of money, 
gtt<'! he strongly opposed the Davis-Bostwick referendum 
pleasure. He read resolutions purporting- to have been 
signed by Andrew H. Green, A. Strauss, Henry Clews, 
Paul Dana, Hugh Kenny, John DeWitt Warner, F. C. 
Olcott, Niles M. O'Brien, C. C. Shaync, Bird S. Coler, 
George C. Clark, E. A. Bradley, and a hundred other dis- 
tinguished New Yorkers, endorsing the purpose of his 

The attitude of the signers of these resolutions was 
called in question in the debates, and telegrams were re- 
ceived from some of them stating that they signed under a 
misapprehension of the purport of the resolutions and that 
they were in favor of the barge canal referendum measure. 

The speech of Senator Lewis on this occasion was an 
elaborate statement of his reasons for opposing the barge 
canal bill. He declared that in his opposition to that meas- 
ure he was representing the sentiment of his constituency — 
in other words, the voters of Rochester and vicinity. He 
reviewed the history of the $9,000,000 proposition, and 
denied that moneys appropriated for the canal enlargement, 
according to that plan, had been foolishly or extravagantly 
spent. "I stand here/' he exclaimed, "to deny the charge. 
There was no deviation, there was no mismanagement and 
extravagance, except those deviations, mismanagements and 
extravagances which always accompany any large appro- 
priation for the expenditures of any large sum of money 
for public work." Continuing, he said that it was well 
known at the time the $9,000,000 proposition was submitted 
to the people, that it was totally inadequate to the needs of 
the situation. It was thought, he said, that additional sums 
would be voted to complete the work, but the work had 
never been completed, nor the capacity of the canal enlarged 
by the expenditure of the $9,000,000. He continued : 

"The history of canal legislation since the completion of the 
expenditure of the $9,000,000 is a history known to all men of the 
State. The deception that was practiced upon the people of the State 
in 1895 and 1896 has aroused the people, and led them to a study of 
the question, has induced them to examine into the facts, and today, 


Mr. President, I venture the opinion that not a majority of the voters 
of the State are in favor of the appropriation of any more mofre) 
upon the canals, unless it may be a sum sufficient to complete, the 
$9,000,000 proposition as originally contemplated. That is true of the 
city 'of Rochester, Mr. President, and it is true of the county of 
Monroe, which I am here to represent in part. My constituents, 
my immediate constituents, the people of my district, do not want 
the barge canal constructed. In taking that position I believe they 
have taken the correct and proper position, the one which the judg- 
ment of thinking men throughout the State concurs with." 

Senator Lewis dwelt upon the attitude of certain news- 
papers which he held to represent public sentiment and 
which were strongly in favor of the completion of tht 
$9,000,000 undertaking. He also dwelt upon the arguments 
which had been put forward, especially by New York and 
Buffalo, in favor of different propositions for canal im- 
provement at different times. He outlined at length the 
action that had been taken by the. Federal Government in 
surveying routes for deep waterways to connect Lake Erie 
and the Hudson, and he quoted from a report of the En- 
gineering Commission which had presented the subject to 
Congress to the effect "that it is probable that a down grade 
deep waterway of twenty-one feet depth could be con- 
structed from Tonawanda to Utica." "No survey of such 
deep waterway," said Senator Lewis, "has been made. 
First, because the act of Congress under which that Com- 
mission was operating did not authorize such a survey and, 
second, as I am informed, because there were no funds 
available to meet the expenses of such a survey." Pie said 
further : 

"In view of that situation and the suggestion of the commission 
it seems to me only the part of wisdom that before the State of New 
York enters upon the policy of constructing a twelve-foot barge 
canal, at an estimated expense of $100,000,000 and upwards, all pos- 
sible and practical means should be exhausted to induce the Federal 
Government to continue the work which was begun in 1897, and to 
ascertain definitely and finally whether or not a deep waterway could 
be created by the interior route that should be able to take care of the 
tremendous commerce of the great Northwest and that would be 


likely to compete successfully with the proposed Georgian bay and 
Ouowa river canal, if that canal should finally be constructed. 

"Now, Mr. President, it was with this thought that I prepared 
and introduced a resolution in this body which was referred to the 
canal committee and which is now safely locked in the desk of that 
committee, asking Congress to provide for a continuation of the sur- 
vey of the canal from Utica through the interior route to Lake Erie. 
It was because I believe that before the people of this State should be 
asked to commit themselves definitely and finally to the proposition 
for a barge canal at a cost of over $100,000,000, that all possible infor- 
mation should be secured before that action is taken." 

Senator Lewis emphatically stated that his federal 
proposition was not sprung- at this time for the purpose of 
sidetracking the barge canal proposition. "So long ago," he 
said, "as 1884, the deep waterway proposition was brought 
to the attention of the people of this State by that distin- 
guished and lamented gentleman who died but recently and 
whose record in this State w T as one of which any man 
might well be proud. I refer to the Hon. Elnathan Sweet 
who so long ago as 1884 advocated the consideration of a 
deep waterway of at least 18 feet depth, with 100 feet width 
at bottom, and with locks 450 feet long and 60 feet wide." 
He referred to the estimates and reports on the subject 
which had been made by Major Symons, and quoted a joint 
resolution introduced in Congress by Senator Vilas, Feb- 
ruary 8, 1895, which called for a preliminary inquiry con- 
cerning deep waterways between the ocean and the Great 
Lakes, and providing commissioners therefor. The speaker 
sketched the history of subsequent proceedings under this 
joint resolution, and continued : 

"Now the question has been asked, perhaps most of you have 
heard it, why the route from Buffalo through the Seneca river and 
Oneida lake has not been surveyed. The Deep Waterway Commis- 
sion to which I have referred was acting in conjunction with the 
Canadian Government, which rendered it impossible for our commis- 
sion to recommend an interior route. The choice of routes was 
necessarily confined to the route by the Great Lakes or the route 
through Canada from the Georgian bay to the Ottawa river. Rut in 
1897 the sundry civil expense bill called for a survey by the board of 
engineers on deep waterways by routes between the Great Lakes and 


the Atlantic tide-water, reported by the deep waterways commission 

to the Secretary of War. That is the very proposition the Secretary 
of War had directed Major Symons to survey. The only surveys 
which we have of this route which I have suggested, which 1 desire, 
and which my bill provides shall be made, the only surveys which 
have ever been made are these : Those made by the interior route 
from Buffalo to the Seneca river, 153 miles, by the State Engineer 
and Surveyor in response to the requirements of chapter 411 of the 
laws of 1900. That was the $200,000 survey provided for by the 
appropriation bill of 1900, and while these surveys were capably made, 
it is stated, and without contradiction so far as I know, it is still true 
that they were made in too hurried a manner to be satisfactory as to 
the details." 1 

In reply to Senator Lewis on that occasion I said in 

"The presentation at this time of the substitute offered by Senator 
Lewis to the 1,000 ton barge canal bill, if adopted, would defeat the 
passage of the latter measure. I trust the Senators fully understand 
the importance of disposing of the question properly. 

"There are two propositions which confront us, and they are 
briefly these : The first is the Davis-Bostwick Barge Canal bill now 
under consideration ; and the second is the substitute bi31 now pre- 
sented by Senator Lewis, authorizing the Governor to appoint a 
commission to negotiate for the construction of a deep waterway 
from the Great Likes to tidewater. The latter proposition, however, 
could not be carried to completion without a surrender to the Fed- 
eral Government of the canal properties of the State, estimated to 
be worth one hundred million dollars. If the substitute bill, offered 
by the Senator from the 43rd District, be passed, it will necessarily 
defeat the canal referendum measure. 

"From the inception of the New York canal policy, no other 
question has received so much consideration from its broad-minded, 
public-spirited citizens, its legislators and its governors. It may, 
therefore, be assumed that whatever may be said in this debate will 
necessarily be a repetition of what has been said by those who have 
preceded us, because every argument and every conceivable sugges- 
tion as to the wisdom of this legislation have been presented by 
those who are laboring for the upbuilding and maintenance of the 
commercial supremacy of this State. I will not undertake to repeat 

1. The foregoing abstract of and quotations from Senator Lewis' speech 3re 
from a report printed in the Rochester Union and Advertiser, April 2, 1903. 


ill of these. They are known and read of all men familiar with the 
development of the natural and artificial waterways of this State. 
However, there are some matters that deserve our attention. 

"In answer to the statements of the Senator in relation to the 
insufficiency of the nine million dollar appropriation to complete the 
work contemplated at that time, it may be said that the data then 
obtainable are now generally conceded to have been insufficient to 
warrant the action of the Legislature in passing the referendum 
measure of 1895; and still the members of the Legislature at that 
time undoubtedly acted up to their best judgment on such data as 
were presented and it does not become us to cast aspersions upon 
the integrity of those who performed what they then believed to be 
their duty in voting in favor of the passage of that measure. 

"There were many problems then unforeseen which arose during 
the progress of the nine million dollar improvement, such as the 
sliding in of the sloping walls, the appearance at places of quicksands 
in the bed of the canal, the pouring of waters through the bottom of 
the canal and the caving in of many of the structures as fast as the 
prism was deepened, as there was nothing to support these when the 
earth was removed in the process of the enlargement. All this 
necessitated new construction at a great increase of cost. 

"Since the passage of the nine million referendum measure, the 
Legislature, to avoid a recurrence of similar results under the pro- 
posed barge canal plan of improvement, passed the Survey bill, which 
authorized the State Engineer and Surveyor to make surveys and 
estimates for barge canals between the Great Lakes on the west and 
Lake Champlain on the north and the Hudson river. That report, 
together with the supplemental reports recently made by the State 
Engineer is before us containing the data upon which the pending 
bill is based, which authorizes a bond issue of one hundred and one 
million of dollars for improving the canals from the Hudson river 
to Whitehall and to Buffalo and from the Three River point to 
Oswego. That plan of improvement should be passed by the Legis- 
lature and submitted to the people for their approval as authorized 
in the pending Davis bill. All amendments thereto should be voted 
down. This measure has received much consideration and it is not 
likely to be improved by amendments hastily offered, which have 
not received the consideration of the canal committees. 

"The substitute measure offered by Senator Lewis and endorsed 
by Hon. Andrew H. Green and other gentlemen, can have no effect 
other than the delay or possibly the defeat of canal improvement 
in this State. For nearly one hundred years the State of New York 
has appealed to the Federal Government for aid, without avail, and 


there is no probability of aid being rendered by the Federal Govern- 
ment at the present time. 

"Before the construction of the Erie canal was undertaken z 
commission was appointed to confer with the Federal Government 
on the question of governmental aid in the construction of a federal 
waterway from the Great Lakes to the ocean. That appeal was 
made in 1808 and declined. Several appeals were made thereafter 
before the State began the construction of the Erie canal, and ail 
these were without avail. Repeated appeals have been made since, 
with similar results, and it is not probable that Massachusetts, 
Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and other Atlantic states would 
consent to a federal appropriation which would build up the port 
of New York to the detriment of Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, 
Newport News or other Atlantic ports. 

"Furthermore, the ship canal scheme is so impractical and vision- 
ary as not to deserve serious consideration. Any one familiar with 
the commerce of the Great Lakes, the high seas, and the canals, 
fully understands the impracticability of navigating these three 
bodies of water with the same type of vessels. The depth of the 
harbors and connecting rivers of the Great Lakes is fixed by the 
Government at twenty-two feet, and the vessels navigating these 
bodies of water have a draft of twenty feet. The vessels navigating 
the high seas have a draft of thirty to thirty-five feet. It is pro- 
posed that vessels navigating the barge canals have a draft of ten 
and one-half feet. Vessels on the Great Lakes are not built to with- 
stand the storms of the high seas, and ocean-going vessels are built 
so strongly that their carrying capacity is reduced below that of lake 
vessels in proportion to their displacement, and if they were to 
navigate the Great Lakes they could not successfully compete with 
lake vessels in the commerce of those lakes. 

"The relative cost of ocean-going in comparison with that of 
lake vessels is such as to render it commercially unprofitable for 
ocean-going vessels to engage in inland lake navigation. Further- 
more ships require plenty of sea room and the channels of New 
York harbor are hardly spacious enough to admit of ocean-going 
vessels, passing through without the aid of tug boats to prevent 
grounding. A similar condition obtains when large lake vessels 
attempt to pass through the Buffalo river, where tug-boats are 
necessary afore and aft to prevent them going against wharves or 
colliding with other vessels, notwithstanding that river is as wide 
and deep as a ship canal. 

"Therefore the physical difficulties, incident to the navigation of 
restricted channels by ships, are such as to deter masters from the 
use of canals, except where controlling circumstances necessitate 


their use, such as the Suez connecting the Mediterranean and Red 
seas to avoid the circumnavigation of Africa; the Corinthian canal 
connecting two arms of the Mediterranean sea; the Kiel, connecting 
the North and Baltic seas; the Manchester canal, affording ocean 
shipping facilities for the city of Manchester; and in the lower 
reaches of some rivers that form arms of the sea. In a 21-foot canal 
of upwards of 200 miles in length the rate of speed with large lake 
vessels would be slower than in the ship canals above mentioned, 
and the delays would be much greater. The speed of vessels draw- 
ing twenty-three feet is limited in the Suez canal to five and three- 
quarter miles per hour; in the Amsterdam canal, to five and six- 
tenth miles per hour; in the Kiel canal to six and two-tenth miles 
per hour, and in the Manchester ship canal to six miles per hour, 
but in none of these does the speed ordinarily exceed five miles per 
hour when in motion, and there are frequent delays of several hours. 
"Vessel owners avoid such artificial waterways whenever possible, 
for delays are very costly, both on account of the capital invested 
and in operating expenses, and soon wipe out all the profits on a 

"In the report of the Roosevelt or Green commission, they say: 
" 'It seems to us that there are certain insuperable difficulties in 
the way of such a canal (either a twenty-one or twenty-eight foot 
waterway from the Great Lakes to the Atlantic ocean as proposed 
by the Board of Engineers on Deep Waterways) ever being a suc- 
cess, no matter by whom constructed. It is intended to be used by a 
vessel which can navigate the ocean, the canal and the lakes. We 
do not believe that such a vessel can be constructed so as to be 
economically and commercially successful. The ocean steamer is 
built to withstand the fierce storms of the Atlantic, and in its most 
modern type costs about $71 per net ton of carrying capacity. The 
vessel to navigate the lakes is built to withstand less frequent and 
dangerous storms. It has less draught on account of the smaller 
depth of the harbors on the lakes, and it is built much less substan- 
tially; its cost is about $36 per net ton of carrying capacity. The 
cost of a canal boat is about $7.31 per ton of carrying capacity. . . . 
We do not believe that it is possible to combine these three types 
into one vessel which will be as economical for the through trip as 
to use the three existing types with two changes of cargo, one at 
Buffalo and one at New York, or to use the boat of 1,000 tons 
capacity going through from the lakes to New York and there trans- 
ferring its cargo to the ocean steamer. 

" 'This report contains abundant information upon which to base 
the conclusions reached by the commissioners who recommend the 


improvement of the canal system to that extent which would admit 
vessels of 1,000 tons carrying capacity.' 

"The Green Commission was called upon to decide, among other 
things, whether the canals should be improved or abandoned, and 
if in the judgment of the commission, they were to be improved, 
they were requested to make recommendations as to the character 
and extent of the improvement. The commission spent several 
months in giving hearings and acquiring expert information on the 
various engineering, transportation and other questions involved 
in a proper disposition of the subject, and one of their number 
inspected several systems of European canals where much informa- 
tion was acquired and presented to the commission. Two members 
of the commission were distinguished engineers of the Corps of the 
United States Engineers, and one of the number assisted in making 
the deep water survey through this State for the Federal Govern- 
ment. They finally reached a unanimous decision that the canals of 
the State should be improved to a capacity capacious enough to ad- 
mit of their navigation by vessels carrying cargoes of a thousand tons 
each, in order to hold the commerce of the State against Canadian 
canals or domestic or foreign railway competition. 

"From a most exhaustive study of all the questions involved of 
waterway transportation in this and foreign countries, the commis- 
sion concluded that the thousand ton barge was the best adapted 
vessel for inland navigation, and that it was large enough to be an 
effective freight regulator for a century at least. The commission 
concluded that freight rates on such a canal would be fifty-two hun- 
dredths of a mill per ton per mile, while the present canal rate is one 
and seventy-six hundredths of a mill per ton per mile on boats car- 
rying 240 tons and the railroad rate as stated by Mr. Daniels is five 
and ninety-hundredths of a mill per ton per mile. Thus it will be 
seen that the rate on the barge canal will be so low that no railroad 
rate can ever reach it. In the history of transportation in this and 
other countries, freight rates have never reached that low limit. 
What does that mean? It means, as the commissioners have said, 
that New York will always have the means of carrying freight be- 
tween the Hudson river and the Great Lakes at a rate so low, that 
no combination of trunk line traffic managers can ever reach it, and 
it will give New York the advantage over every other State in the 
Union in the handling of freight passing to and fro between the 
Great Lakes and the Atlantic. That advantage hitherto has given 
her the commerce, the wealth and the prestige of an empire. With 
the marvelous development and extraordinary equipment of modern 
railways, they are competent to handle freight in such quantities and 


with such rapidity as to outstrip the antiquated methods of our canal 
system, which has not undergone improvement in a third of a cen- 
tury. That condition must be remedied, if New York is to maintain 
her commercial supremacy. 

"Both political parties are on record in favor of canal improve- 
ment. The pending measure is the culmination of years of study 
and consideration given to the subject by the people of the State. 
The commercial interests of the State are more or less dependent 
on the passage of the measure, and the canal improvement in the 
State. In refutation of the petitions presented here in opposition to 
the measure, petitions signed by thousands of other people might 
easily be procured in its advocacy, if that were necessary, but no one 
who has kept abreast of the movement since 1900 can be in doubt 
as to the trend of popular sentiment in this State on this measure. 
Public sentiment has been overwhelmingly in favor of canal im- 
provement in this State. Every referendum measure presented to 
the people has met with approval, and no one doubts but that the 
pending measure, if submitted, will receive a large popular majority. 
The metropolitan press as well as the papers of the city, which I 
have the honor to represent, are unanimous in its support; and 
voicing public sentiment as they do, no on'; can be in doubt as to the 
wisdom of submitting to the people of the State a measure upon 
which they are permitted to express their will. This is a democratic 
proposition upon which everyone can express his individual opinion, 
and I am a little curious to see what Senator in this chamber will 
refuse by his vote to submit a measure of this magnitude to the 
judgment of his constituents. We hear eulogies pronounced upon 
the constitution of Switzerland; but will those who have heretofore 
lauded that system of government deny to their constituents the ad- 
vantages which they laud so highly in that Republic? 

"The people are demanding waterway improvement in order that 
the State may continue to maintain its lead in commerce, in wealth 
and in all the characteristics of a great empire, for cheap transporta- 
tion is the basis of industrial as well as agricultural development 
and prosperity. The Lewis amendment should, therefore, be voted 
down and the Davis bill pass without amendment and be submitted 
to the people of this State for their approval at the next general 

Senator George A. Davis, speaking in defence of the 
canal enlargement bill, said : 

"It is often asked, Why is Buffalo so interested in canal im- 
provement? The general idea being that it is the grain traffic that 


we are seeking to have come to Buffalo that we may get a handling 
charge out of it. Nothing could be farther from the truth, or from 
the real reason why Buffalo especially demands the thousand ton 
barge canal. It is true that for many years Buffalo enjoyed a very 
large and profitable business in transferring grain from lake craft 
to canal boats. Those days have now practically gone by. A still 
brighter future is open to Buffalo and the Niagara frontier from the 
thousand ton barge canal. The highest profit ever paid to Buffalo 
men for transferring grain amounted to less than 50 cents per ton. 
The volume was very large and the earnings of course were large. 
Railroad competition at other ports and a practical destruction of 
the canal boats have caused the grain traffic by canal to sink to low 
figures. Not over one bushel in ten of the grain coming to our port 
moves out by canal, and for some years the highest rate for transfer 
was 35 cents per ton, and for ,the past three years no charge has 
been made. So our Buffalo elevators have made no money from 
canal transfer of grain for three years. • 

"Fortunately for Buffalo, it has now been conceded that no place 
along the entire chain of lakes presents such ideal features for 
cheap manufacturing of iron and steel as are found on the Niagara 
frontier, providing the thousand ton barge canal is built to give a 
cheap water outlet to the sea and to the entire canal section of the 

"We can there assemble the raw material by water to a very large 
extent and with the. big canal completed it is not out of bounds to 
say that we can at Buffalo, with the thousand ton barge canal, deliver 
a ton of iron and steel at tidewater for a lower price than it can be 
done from any point on this continent and perhaps in the world. 

"What this means is this. W r e can take a ton of raw material, 
costing about five dollars per ton at our docks, and manufacture it 
into everything requiring iron and steel, and bring it up to a product 
worth from $15 to $50 per ton. A very large part of this difference 
is made up by labor used in the manufacture. 

"Therefore, instead of the old grain traffic paying us never over 
50 cents per ton, we propose to foster an industry that will pay to 
our people from $5 to $20 per ton to be expended in labor. 

"This means an enormous increase in population along the Niag- 
ara frontier. The Stony Point iron and steel plant will expend close 
to $40,000,000 and will alone support a population of close to 50,000 
people within five years. 

"This is the prosperity we are looking for from the thousand ton 
barge canal, and we will surely have it. 

"We propose making Buffalo the greatest manufacturing center 


on the lakes. At the same time we will be able to furnish all kinds 
of iron and steel material to all local points through the State and 
ro New York City at prices that cannot be equalled anywhere in the 
country. This will culminate manufacturing all along the canal 
Section of the State, and will in a few years make the canal section 
of New York State, and the river section as well, the greatest manu- 
facturing sections in the world. 

"Buffalo has practically forgotten the grain traffic in view of the 
bright future opening up in other lines, in other interests, which 
have been attracted to us by the idea that the thousand ton barge 
canal would be built. The value of the big canal to all local traffic 
is too well known to make it necessary to go into any figures. 

"We have now come to a peculiar phase of the canal question. 
The leading commercial and business interests of the State, as well 
as the greatest engineers of the country, have decided that the best „ 
and cheapest way to move a ton of freight is in the thousand ton 
barge canal. The decision is arrived at after eight years of careful 
investigation. We are now met with the most remarkable schemes 
to solve this problem, submitted by men who have suddenly con- 
cluded that every one is wrong but themselves as to what should be 
done ! 

''Some of these schemes are launched by men who imagine they 
know, but do not know; and other schemes are launched by the 
most bitter opponents of canal improvement, for the sole purpose of 
delaying action on the canal question. None of these plans will 
hold water or check the thousand ton barge canal plan a moment, 
but they should be noticed. One is a matter of electrical tov/ing. 
What the future may bring forth, no one knows, but it is perfectly 
safe to say that today the man does not live who can give any ac- 
curate estimate of the cost of the electrical towing of boats from 
Buffalo to Albany as proposed. 

"The weakness of the proposed electrical towing plant is: First, 
that it is a patented device; and that which solves the problem once 
and for all, as far as the present is concerned, is that after making a 
great spread of argument to show that they would be willing to tow 
a boat from Buffalo to Albany for 50 cents per ton for power alone, 
it transpires that at the present time canal boats are being towed by 
those men who own steam canal boats at 50 cents per ton from Buf- 
falo to New York, or 150 miles farther, for the same money. 

"If therefore, the electrical towing is based on that proposition, 
it may be dropped at once from serious consideration, as it has al- 
ready been by all who know anything about water transportation. 


"The next proposition is, the great ship canal scheme to be buih 
by the Federal Government. The anti-canal forces have sough: lo 
make a last rally on the ship canal plan. After fighting every can i\ 
improvement, they have finally suddenly evolved this brilliant 
scheme, and after visiting a number of men, prominent, but unin- 
formed on the transportation question in this State, have induced 
them to sign a petition, as all petitions are signed, without really 
thinking or knowing what they were doing, requesting that the State 
of New York ask that indefinite entity, the United States, on what 
terms it would build a canal through this State. 

"This effort is for the sole purpose of delaying the present bill. 
Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been expended for ship canal 
surveys between the lakes and tidewater through this State, and not 
a single effort has been made to carry the project through except on 
the part of those who wish to kill the present bill. 

"The weakness of this last effort to block canal legislation is so 
evident that it is hardly worth considering; but this should be borne 
in mind by the honest people who have been induced to sign a ship 
canal petition. Every railroad running to the coast would be forced 
to stand against a ship canal through the State of New York. 

"New York State would practically stand alone against the rail- 
roads and the friends of every Atlantic coast port from Galveston to 
Portland. It would be simply ridiculous to start such a movement ; 
and, with the greatest success, it could not be built before twenty- 
five or fifty years. 

"This is not all there is to it. A ship canal built from Buffalo to 
New York would never be used by a ship because it has been dem- 
onstrated beyond a doubt that the big nine thousand ton lake vessels 
cannot successfully, from a financial standpoint, navigate a narrow 
waterway like a ship canal for any considerable distance. The cheap 
thousand ton barge would alone be used, even if the ship canal were 

"It is thus clear that the ship canal talk is only for delay, and is 
not a practical or sensible solution of the problem, and could not be 
obtained from the Federal Government even if it were practicable. 

"The thousand ton barge canal solves the problem for all time, 
and the State of New York is big enough, rich enough, and smart 
enough to know it, and is able to build it and will certainly do so." 

The obstacles interposed to the passage of the measure 
were such as to call for the utmost skill on the part of its 
friends to avert them. Direct and insidious attacks by way 
of proposed amendments were made upon it. Fortunately. 


the Hon. Thomas F. Grady, the most skilled parliamen- 
tarian then in the Senate, was on the alert to repel every 
move made to check the progress of the measure. He was 
in the Legislature from 1877 to 18S9, and had been in the 
Senate continuously from J 896 to the time under notice, 
lie was then leader of the minority, and exerted a powerful 
influence upon his Democratic colleagues in the Senate. 
During the debates, which continued five and a half hours, 
he received a special message from Charles F. Murphy, the 
leader of Tammany Hall, which read as follows: 

"My dear Senator: I desire to again remind you of the vital 
importance of doing everything in your power towards the passage 
of the canal bill, framed by the Canal Association of Greater New 
York. Aside from other considerations that should induce our sur- 
port of this measure, is the fact that among the many distinguished 
citizens of our city who are agitating its passage, are many good and 
valued friends of the organization." 

Senator Grady was already earnest in his support of the 
measure, but the impartation of this information to the 
other legislative members of Tammany Hall had a most 
salutary effect upon their attitude toward the measure. 
Senator Grady made a strong and brilliant speech on that 
occasion, in which he appealed to his colleagues to stand 
by the political declarations of the Democratic party, and 
severely arraigned some Republicans for their recreancy to 
their party platform. He spoke at great length, and on each 
of the several amendments proposed to the bill during the 
day; and had several lively tilts with those Republican 
senators who were exerting all their influence to defeat the 
passage of the measure. In speaking of the amendment 
offered by Senator Lewis, Senator Grady said: 

"I can say for myself and colleagues that we want to vote the 
amendment down. It has got to be decided some day, we want to 
decide it now, so that whatever the enemies of the canals may do in 
the future, at least this old skeleton will not come up again. We 
will be glad to show whether either of the great parties dares to 
break faith with the people by seeking to turn the State canals over 
to the Government." 


In reply to a statement that the Republican platform did 
not specifically declare for the thousand ton barge canal 
improvement, Senator Grady said : 

"You can say that the Republican platform was a fraud, and that 
your constituency was betrayed, but you must remember that t h»r 
people will never again give you an opportunity to betray them again 
on this subject. The people did not give the Democratic party the 
responsibility, but the obligation remained, and the Democrats elected 
to the Legislature would redeem their pledges and vote for the build- 
ing up and improvement of the canals, justifying whatever confidence 
the people had in the Democracy, and hoping that the future would 
prove that the Democrats were right in assuming this position. With 
the Democrats a promise made before election must be fulfilled. A 
man who would break a political promise would break a business ob- 
ligation. The State calls on both parties to redeem their promises 
and pledges publicly made. If this bill fails we shall have witnessed 
the basest betrayal of public confidence in the history of the Com- 

Senator Grady severely scored Andrew H. Green for 
favoring the Lewis bill, and attributed his attitude on that 
measure to his railroad affiliations. He read a telegram 
from Bird S. Coler, received during the debate, addressed 
to George E. Green, stating that he had no recollection of 
signing the petition, and no intention of reversing his posi- 
tion on canals. 

No parliamentarian ever exhibited greater tact during 
the entire day, or more materially aided in the passage of a 
great measure than did Senator Grady on that occasion. 
His steadfastness and fidelity to all canal measures — and 
there have been many, in support of which he has success- 
fully led a solid Democratic minority — entitle him to the 
lasting gratitude and grateful remembrance of all the 
people interested in the commercial development of the 

Senator George R. Malby of St. Lawrence county, of- 
fered an amendment, striking out that provision of the 
Davis-Bostwick bill which calls for the levying of a direct 
tax on real and personal property, in order to have sufficient 
revenue to pay interest on the indebtedness. He contended 
that that should be left to future legislative bodies. 


To this I replied that the Constitution then provided for 
the imposition of a direct tax for meeting; the canal debt; 
and added that I had introduced a proposed amendment at 
•he Legislative session of 1902, adding- a new section to 
Article VII. of the Constitution, authorizing- the Legislature 
to set apart the surplus moneys of the treasury into a sink- 
ing fund to pay the interest as it falls due, and to pay and 
discharge the principal of any debt theretofore or thereafter 
created; and in the event that such moneys so set apart in 
any fiscal year be sufficient to provide such sinking- fund, a 
direct annual tax for such year need not be imposed and 
collected, as required by the provisions of Section 4 of Ar- 
ticle VII, or of any later law enacted in pursuance thereof. 
I pointed out that, if finally approved, this would enable the 
Legislature to suspend the imposition of a direct tax as re- 
quired by Section 4 of Article VII of the Constitution, and 
permit the application of the surplus moneys in the Treas- 
ury to the liquidation of the State debts, including* the 
bonded indebtedness contemplated in the pending measure. 
That proposed amendment, which passed the Senate of 1902 
by the affirmative vote of 45 Senators, and without opposi- 
tion, I held was likely to pass the present Legislature, and 
be submitted at a later date. That amendment passed the 
Senate April 21, 1903. 10 

Senator Malby stated that if the Hill proposition to re- 
lieve the people were submitted next fall, the Davis canal 
improvement proposition could not then be submitted. There 
was no possibility of getting both propositions before the 
people. I replied that the canal improvement measure as it 
would be submitted must contain a tax clause under the 
Constitution as it then existed, and that in the following 
year a proposed amendment to the Constitution might be 
submitted. Thereupon Senator Malby withdrew his amend- 
ment to the canal measure. In speaking further on the 
measure Senator Malby said that "he was willing to support 
any measure that would be conducive to the general pros- 

10. N. Y. Senate Journal. 1903. p. 1389. On motion of Assemblyman Robert 
L. Cox, of Erie County, it passed the Assembly April 22, 1903. See Assembly 
Journal, 1903, p. 2817. 


perity of the State, but did not believe that a canal improve- 
ment would redound to the benefit of the State. "The 
canals/' he said, "were a losing game, and never would be 
anything else. The expense had increased ioo per cent, 
while the tonnage had grown less at almost the same ratio. 
The great and improved railroad facilities had eliminated 
the canals as a factor of this State's prosperity. No canal 
that could ever be built would be able to compete favorably 
with the railroads." He declared that it was nothing more 
than a subsidy to those who would condescend to use the 
slow canal system ; he stated that the amount authorized by 
the bill was tremendous, and would be levied on real and 
personal property for years, and that the benefits hoped for 
were out of all proportion to the proposed expenditure. 

Senator E. R. Brown declared that "the Republican plat- 
form called for canal improvement to be paid for by indirect 
taxation, and not by direct taxation, as the bill provided for. 
While it was proposed under the Davis bill to build the canal 
on direct tax resources, it was with the assurance that this 
method would be changed later." He argued against "sad- 
dling the State with this great burden, when the financial 
sky showed portents, and warnings of coming danger were 

Senator John Raines denied that any Republican who 
voted against the bill would be a traitor ; instead, he would 
be subserving the best interests of the State and the Re- 
publican party by voting for the defeat of the bill. The 
passage of this bill would mean the election of the Demo- 
cratic candidates at the next gubernatorial election. He de- 
clared that if the Democratic party had not been pledged to 
canal improvement Bird S. Coler would have been elected 
Governor by 50,000 majority. He declared that there was 
"neither demand nor necessity for the thousand ton barge 
canal, and the benefits were doubtful." 

Senator George E. Green, who was a member of the 
Roosevelt Commission, which had recommended the thou- 
sand ton barge canal improvement, declared that "the Re- 
publican party and Governor Odell had pledged themselves 
to canal improvement, and every Republican who voted 


against the bill was recreant to his trust. It was weak and 
false to pretend that the Republican party and its represen- 
tatives were not pledged to canal enlargement, and the in- 
tlirect taxation necessary to build the canal was all but pro- 
vided for." 

Senator J. P. Allds declared that "the party was pledged 
to canal improvement, but by indirect taxation, and this 
could not be accomplished until the Constitution was 

During the debate on this measure the Senate galleries 
were thronged, and an intense interest prevailed. Those of 
us in charge of the measure were keenly apprehensive lest 
there be some wavering in the ranks of its supporters, or 
through some other parliamentary attack of its opponents, 
that it fail of passage. The bill was an evolution of canal 
sentiment working through a quarter of a century, which 
finally culminated in this most gigantic measure ever sub- 
mitted to a legislative body in any State of the Union. It 
involved many questions of engineering, of economics and 
finance, as well as questions of constitutional law. All these 
or some of these we were called upon to defend during the 
long session while the bill was under consideration in the 
Senate. It was one of the most strenuous sessions ever wit- 
nessed in the Legislature. 

On the final roll-call, after all adverse amendments had 
been voted down, the canal referendum measure received 
the affirmative votes of 32 Senators, and there were 14 votes 
against the measure on its final passage. 1 

On the final passage of the canal bill through the Senate, 
the senators representing the cities of Rochester, Albany 
and Troy were recorded in the negative and the Senator 
from Syracuse was absent on account of prolonged ill- 
health. The affirmative votes for the measure were by 
senators representing Long Island, Greater New York, some 
of the Hudson river counties, Saratoga and the Champlain 
valley counties, some of the Mohawk river counties, Madison 
and Oswego, Broome, Orleans and Niagara counties, and 
the three senators representing Erie county. 

1. Senate Journal. 1903, p. 634. 


The senators who voted for the bill were: Edwin Baitey, 
Jr., Edgar T. Brackett, Walter C. Burton, Thomas C. Cul- 
len, George A. Davis, Peter A. Dooling, Victor J. Dow ling, 
Nathaniel A. Elsberg, John C. Fitzgerald, Samuel J. Folev, 
Francis H. Gates, Louis F. Goodsall, Thomas F. Grady, 
George E. Green, John A. Hawkins, Henry W. Hill, Luke 
A. Keenan, Irving L'Hommedieu, Henry Marshall, Bernard 
F. Martin, James H. McCabe, Patrick H. McCarren, Chas. 
P. McClellan, George W. Plunkitt, Spencer G. Prime. 
Samuel J. Ramsperger, Daniel J. Riordan, John W. Russell, 
William Townsend, Joseph Wagner, Spencer K. Warnick 
and Thomas C. Whitlock. 1 

If the commerce of New York continues to expand for 
another century in consequence of the barge canal improve- 
ment, as it has during the past century as a result of the 
construction of the original Brie canal, the names of these 
senators and the assemblymen who voted for the refer- 
endum measure of 1903, will be held in as high regard by 
succeeding generations as are the names of the original pro- 
jectors of the canal system of this State. 

In some respects the contest in the Senate was one of the 
most dramatic ever witnessed. It was the culmination of a 
movement starting with the abolition of tolls in 1882, and 
then for the enlargement of locks and deepening of the 
prism; thereafter for the improvement known as the Sey- 
mour-Adams plan ; and finally the projection of the barge 
canal proposition. Such a movement extending over a 
period of two decades very naturally aroused deep interest, 
and its issue was fraught with extraordinary consequences 
to the commerce of the State. 

Parliamentary contests usually involve matters that are 
largely temporal in character, which may be modified from 
year to year; but this project was fraught with momentous 
consequences to the State in that if it passed the Legislature 
and were approved by the people, it authorized a bond issue 
of one hundred and one millions, running over a period of 
eighteen years, which under a constitutional amendment 

1. Jb. 


then pending was likely to be extended over a period of 
fifty years. It so far transcended in importance all ordinary 
parliamentary contests that it called forth the best efforts 
of all who had any part in it, either in or out of the Legisla- 

During the long and strenuous debate the friends of the 
pleasure were intense in their advocacy of it and were called 
upon to defend its engineering, its fiscal and constitutional 
provisions, all of which were assailed by the opponents, who 
were equally resolute in their attacks upon it. It was the 
largest measure ever submitted to or considered by a legis- 
lative body in this country, and naturally aroused the deep- 
est interest. 

The pro-canal press of the State was jubilant over the 
passage of the canal measure and spoke in complimentary 
terms of Senators Davis, Hill, Grady and Green, upon whom 
largely rested the burden of carrying the measure through 
the Senate. Much credit is also due to the other senators 
who, although less conspicuous in the debates, by their votes 
made it possible for the canal bill to pass the Senate by a 
large majority vote. 

After the canal bill had passed the Senate, it was trans- 
mitted to the Assembly on March 25th, and a motion was 
made to advance it to the order of second reading ; where- 
upon several amendments were offered by Assemblymen 
George M. Palmer, Edwin A. Merritt, John T. Dooling, 
John Pallace, Jr., William V. Cooke, Daniel W. Moran, 
Olin T. Nye, George H. Whitney, Charles S. Plank and* 
Samuel Fowler. It was evident that the bill had encountered 
very fierce opposition in that body. Assemblyman John 
McKeown of Brooklyn immediately moved a call of the 
House, which was had. Assemblyman Palmer moved that 
the bill with the amendments be made a special order on sec- 
ond and third reading for Tuesday, March 31st, and that 
motion was determined in the negative. Thereupon Assem- 
blymen Jean L. Burnett and Fred W. Hammond moved 
further amendments to the bill and after some discussion of 
the motion of Assemblyman Fowler, the bill, together with 
all amendments, was made a special order on second and 


third reading, for Thursday, March 26th, immediately after 
reading the journal. 

On the day named, when the canal bill was reached on 
the calendar, Assemblyman Palmer spoke in favor of his 
amendments ; and after a discussion by other members of 
Assembly, including Assemblyman Charles F. Bostwick, 
of New York, the introducer of the measure, Assemblyman 
Robert Lynn Cox of Erie, James T. Rogers of Broome, 
and others, all of the Palmer amendments were voted down, 
as were also all other amendments to the measure that had 
been proposed. The oposition, however, of Assemblymen 
Palmer, Moran and Pallace was continued down to the final 
vote on the measure. 

Several Republican members who had offered amend- 
ments to the bill withdrew them during the discussion, and 
before the final vote Assemblyman Palmer reintroduced the 
same amendments and insisted on a roll call on each amend- 
ment so reintroduced by him. The roll calls occupied two 
hours of the time of the Assembly and all of his amend- 
ments were voted down. 

Assemblyman Rogers, the leader of the Assembly, in 
withdrawing his amendment, stated that he considered that 
the canal advocates were entitled to have the referendum 
measure submitted to the people in the form in which they 
had framed it, and advised all Republicans to vote down 
the various amendments that had been proposed. Other 
assemblymen took a similar position; and after a discussion 
running through the entire day, far into the evening, the 
bill passed the Assembly by 87 affirmative votes to 55 votes 
against it. 

The bill had been reached at 11.30 o'clock in the morning. 
Thirty-six amendments were offered to it altogether in the 
Assembly and most of them were debated until 6 p. m., 
when voting began on the amendments and continued for 
two hours. 

Assemblyman Cox made a strong speech on the bill, as 
did Assemblymen Charles W. Hinson and Anthony F. 
Burke, all of Erie county. The burden of the debate, how- 
ever, fell upon Assemblyman Charles F. Bostwick of New 



Vork, the introducer of the measure, who had given the 
U\\ much study during- the legislative session. 

At the conclusion of the vote in the Assembly, George 
H. Raympnd of the Merchants' Exchange of Buffalo, re- 
marked: "Today has witnessed the culmination of eight 
v<. ars of labor on the part of the business interests of the 
Si ate to secure for all time to our people the enjoyment of 
a free waterway between the Great Lakes and the sea. 
. . . We are now to undertake the greatest public work 
ever proposed in this country and the results will be beyond 
the wildest dreams of its friends." 

On April 7th, at 11.35 a - m -> Governor Odell gave his 
official approval to the canal referendum measure in the 
presence of Senator George A. Davis and myself, and 
Messrs. G. K. Clark, Jr., John D. Trenor of the Greater 
Xew York Canal Association, and S. C. Mead, secretary of 
trie Merchants' Association of New York; and it became 
chapter 147 of the laws of 1903 of New York. 

In this connection, in justice to the Merchants' Associa- 
tion of New York, it may be said that that organization, 
comprising such well known canal advocates as Clarence 
Whitman, Gustav H. Schwab, James C. Eames, William 
A. Marble, George L. Duvall, George F. Crane, William F. 
King, J. Hampden Dougherty, Thos. H. Downing, George 
Frederick Victor, Herbert L. Satterlee, Henry R. Towne, 
Frank B. Squier, John G. Carlisle, S. C. Mead, and others, 
had rendered important service to the canal campaign as 
early as 1898, in defeating the Pavey resolution. It con- 
tinued thereafter to cooperate with other organizations in 
various parts of the State in the dissemination of pro-canal 
literature, and was one of the leading organizations that 
had a part in the Canal Enlargement Association of Greater 
New York. It was eminently proper that its distinguished 
and courteous secretary was invited to be present by Gov- 
ernor Odell on the occasion of the approval of the refer- 
endum measure. 


XXVI. The Canal Campaign of 1903. 

As soon as it was known that the canal referendum bill 
had passed the Senate and Assembly and received the ap- 
proval of Governor Odell, amendments were made to the 
proposed constitutional amendments as to the time of their 
submission to the people to be voted upon ; and to avoid 
the complications of a presidential election in 1904, they 
were amended so as to be submitted to the voters at the 
general election in the fall of 1905, and passed the Legis- 
lature in that form. 

The opponents of the canal measure in the Legislature 
were reluctant to submit to the majority vote of the two 
chambers and permit the canal referendum bill to go to the 
people without a protest on their part. Accordingly they 
organized and decided to issue a declaration against the 
canal referendum bill, setting forth their objections to the 
approval of that measure by the people of the State, ap- 
parently oblivious of the fact that the matter, under the 
Constitution, was then merely a referendum for popular 
approval or disapproval. Labor organizations all over the 
State, realizing the industrial development to follow cheap 
transportation over the improved' waterways, declared in 
favor of the measure and did much to counteract the anti- 
canal sentiment in the interior counties of the State. These 
organizations were assisted later in the campaign by Mr. 
Warren C. Browne. 

On May 9, 1903, the Merchants' Exchange of Buffalo 
gave a dinner to General Francis V. Greene, Thomas W. 
Symons, John N. Scatcherd and Edward A. Bond, mem- 
bers of the commission that recommended the barge canal 
improvement, and to the legislators of Erie county w T ho had 
borne the burden of the fight in carrying the bill through 
the Legislature. The banquet was attended by a large 
number of prominent Buffalonians and distinguished citi- 

Herbert P. Bissell, whose father, Amos A. Bissell of 
Oneida county, was for years identified with canal transpor- 


fcatiori and operated a large fleet of canal boats, and who 
himself had served on important canal committees, acted as 
toastmaster. There were present such well-known men as 
Leonard Dodge, president of the Merchants' Exchange; 
John G. Wickser, George Clinton, Edward R. O'Malley, 
Edward H. Butler, Senators George A. Davis and Henry 
W. Hill; E. A. Bailey, J. A. Hawkins, Theodore S. Fas- 
sett, Ottomar Reinecke, Robert Lynn Cox, who had borne 
a conspicuous part in the debates of the Assembly ; Charles 
W. Hinson, Charles V. Lynch, ex-Senator John Laughlin, 
Assemblyman John A. Bradley, William J. Conners, J. 
Lloward Mason, W. Caryl Ely, George H. Raymond, Nor- 
man E. Mack, Charles F. Kingsley, Col. C. A. Bingham, 
Hugh Kennedy, W. C. Harrower, and many others. 

Mr. Leonard Dodge, president of the Merchants' Ex- 
change, in his opening address, said : 

"Gentlemen and Friends of Canal Enlargement — We are as- 
sembled this evening to commemorate the glorious achievement in 
securing legislation authorizing the adequate improvement of the 
waterways of the State of New York, which, when ratified by the 
people of the State at the coming election, will become effective. To 
the chief executive and press of the senate and assembly, who stead- 
fastly supported this legislation, we extend our heartiest thanks and 
rejoice with them upon the attainment of the victory in giving to 
the people of this State the opportunity of exercising their sentiment 
on so vital a project. It is exceedingly appropriate, too, that the cele- 
bration of this event should take place within our city. On October 
26, 1825, upon the completion of the original Erie canal, a represen- 
tative gathering of citizens of this city escorted De Witt Clinton and 
other invited guests through our public thoroughfares to a beautiful 
packet built of Lake Erie red cedar, known as the Seneca Chief, 
lying in the Erie canal at Commercial street, where De Witt Clinton 
and other invited guests, together with the representatives of Buf- 
falo, boarded the Seneca Chief and departed upon their glorious 
passage through the State of New York, carrying a barrel of water 
from Lake Erie to be emptied into the waters of New York Bay, 
thereby wedding the Atlantic ocean with the great inland lakes. The 
Erie canal and waterways connecting therewith, have in past years 
created a chain of cities and towns of wealth and oppulence not to 
be found in any other State of the Union. The maintenance of 
these waterways has given to the State of New York advantages of 


transportation un surpassed in any other State and gave to it the 
title the Empire State. . . . 

"The opposition to canal improvement, I believe, is due in a 
large measure to a lack of knowledge of the subject. If our friends 
who have labored so zealously in the past continue to exert every 
effort during the coming months, an overwhelming majority will be 
found in favor of enlarging our canals, which is simply an expres- 
sion for the continuance of the supremacy of this State in commerce, 
manufacture and agriculture. To you, gentlemen, who are members 
of our Legislature and occupying offices of authority, I beg to ex- 
press again our heartiest appreciation and esteem for the noble man- 
ner in which we receive your support and cooperation." 

General Francis V. Greene spoke as follows : 

"Those who believe in the commercial supremacy of the State of 
New York and desire to see it continued, may well congratulate 
themselves that after so many years of earnest and determined ef- 
fort and in the face of so many difficulties, the opportunity is now 
offered to the voters of the State to decide whether an adequate 
waterway shall be maintained across the State from the lakes to the 
ocean. . . . There is every reason to believe that the people will vote 
in favor of the proposition now to be submitted to them, providing 
it is properly presented for their consideration. On the other hand 
it will be vigorously opposed in certain quarters, and to counteract 
this an active campaign in its favor must be carried on. . . . The 
estimated cost of the project as determined by the engineers' com- 
mittee, of which I had the honor to be chairman in 1899, was sixty- 
two millions of dollars. Certain changes were made in the plans by 
the State Engineer and the Advisory Board of 1900, by which the 
dimensions of the canal were increased and the Oswego canal with 
X2 feet of depth was included in the estimate, and the total cost 
brought up to eighty-two millions. The increase in the cost of labor 
and materials during the last two vears led to a revision of the en- 
gineer's estimates during the past winter, by which they were in- 
creased more than ten millions for labor and materials and to provide 
for unforeseen contingencies, and by more than nine millions addi- 
tional for the 12-foot depth on the Champlain canal, and for cer- 
tain improvements at the Hudson river terminus, thus bringing the 
total cost up to one hundred and one millions, raised by the issue of 
bonds in a bill which will come before the people for their decision 
in November next. . . . 

"It only needs cheap transportation to build up within our borders 
the greatest highway of trade between the Western States and Eu- 


rope and to make this State the most favored spot in all the world 
fuj assembling the raw materials and converting them into manu- 
factured products. This cheap transportation can be furnished by 
the enlargement of the Erie canal." 

A letter was read from Andrew Carnegie, in which he 

"Believe me, gentlemen, New York State has only to provide a 
waterway capable of taking one-thousand ton barges through to meet 
successfully the threatened triumph of Pennsylvania over her in 
population. You know that New York State as a State, excluding 
Greater New York, has been losing population steadily as compared 
with Pennsylvania. So it will continue to do and it is only a question 
of a few decades when Pennsylvania will be again the Empire State 
as she once was. The only means that I know of that will retard this 
and perhaps prevent it is to obtain for New York State what neither 
Pennsylvania nor any other State can by any possibility acquire, a 
deep and wide waterway from lake to ocean." 

Speeches were also made by Messrs. Henry W. Hill, 
George A. Davis, George Clinton, W. Caryl Ely, John N. 
Scatcherd and John A. Hawkins. 

This dinner was an auspicious opening of the canal 
campaign in this State, which continued for six months, 
and grew in interest as it proceeded. The arguments pre- 
sented in the speeches on that occasion were widely cir- 
culated and largely followed during the entire campaign. 
Buffalo had thus set the pace for other meetings held un- 
der the auspices of various chambers of commerce and 
commercial bodies throughout the State. An organised 
and active campaign followed under the direction of the 
Canal Enlargement Association. Speakers were in demand 
and went into many counties of the State and succeeded in 
engaging the attention and in convincing a majority of the 
electors that the referendum measure merited their ap- 
proval. The direct method of statement adopted by the 
speakers, together with the overwhelming array of facts 
forcefully presented, turned the tide from an anti-canal 
to a pro-canal vote. Some of the speeches were prepared 
with great care and represented long study of the matters 
under consideration. These addresses are now of historic 


interest and' present certain phases of the questions in- 
volved not to be found elsewhere. Much of the literature 
bearing on that campaign was necessarily of a fugitive 
character and has largely disappeared. There is no doubt 
but that the speeches, carefully prepared articles and edi- 
torials, that appeared from day to day in the press, did 
much to formulate public sentiment on the important ques- 
tions involved in the referendum measure. The magnitude 
of the problems presented and the far-reaching effects upon 
the future development of the State elicited the best efforts 
of many of its citizens and these are worthy of permanent 
record in the annals of the commonwealth. 

The project was carried, as will later appear, by an over- 
whelming vote, but the causes operating to produce the re- 
sult are traceable to the influences exerted for more than 
a century by the enterprising and far-seeing citizens of the 
State, whose successors were then and have ever been suf- 
ficient in numbers and devoted to its best interests to carry 
forward its great public improvements and to uphold and 
maintain the dignity of this imperial commonwealth. The 
efforts of some of those taking part in the campaign, which 
was of wide range and vast proportions, are included in 
this historical review. That campaign was unprecedented 
and was possible only in a State having similar constitu- 
tional provisions, to those of this State, such as California 
and Washington. Its historical significance justifies an ex- 
tended review of its salient features. 

The campaign, as already stated, began in Buffalo. 
Other cities and towns followed with canal meetings. At a 
banquet given by the Tonawanda Board of Trade and at- 
tended by 150 business men, the late Theodore S. Fassett 
of Buffalo delivered the principal address, in the course of 
which he said : 

"With the enlarged Erie canal and the Black Rock ship canal a 
fact and in operation, most of us will live to see a vast city extending 
from Stony Point to Niagara Falls, because the manufacturers of 
iron, steel and other bulky commodities will sooner or later be com- 
pelled to move from Pittsburg, or wherever else they may be, and 
locate on the Niagara frontier to get competitive advantages of the 


new facilities created. Access to Niagara river by the largest ves- 
sels on the lakes, unlimited water frontage, Niagara power, and, 
more important than any other one of these advantages, the ability 
to distribute their products by the big canal through the State and 
to New York at a lower rate of freight than has ever been known 
for like service that is what will win; and when it is remembered 
that New York State is the only Atlantic State that can tap the 
Great Lakes by canal and the ocean because of the prohibitive topog- 
raphy of the other states, it would seem that every intelligent citizen 
of Buffalo and the Tonawandas would take off his coat and work 
with every ability that God has given him from now until the polls 
close on election day to see that every voter not only understands the 
importance of this question, but gets to the polls and casts his vote 
for the canal referendum bill." 

Few men in the State were more zealous or more ef- 
fective in their advocacy of canal improvement than Mr. 
Fassett, whose death preceded the completion of the great 
undertaking to which he had devoted portions of the best 
years of his life. He spared no time nor effort in the cause, 
and he possessed energy, ability and a familiarity with the 
subject, which enabled him to convince those with whom 
he came in contact of the wisdom of the measure. Much 
is due to the efforts of that patriotic, noble-minded, warm- 
hearted, public-spirited citizen. 

In his memorial address at Clymer, in Chautauqua 
county, Benjamin S. Dean of Jamestown said: "As cer- 
tainly as January follows December, the Erie canal en- 
larged and equipped for the discharge of new work has an 
important mission yet to fill in the destiny of the State." 

As early as the month of May, an aggressive policy was 
determined upon by canal advocates in Western New York. 
George Clinton, John N. Scatcherd, George H. Raymond, 
Robert R. Hefford, L. Porter Smith, John Laughlin, Alfred 
Haines, Theodore S. Fassett, Howard J. Smith, Marcus M. 
Drake, Leonard Dodge, Herbert P. Bissell, George Urban, 
Jr., John Cunneen, James J. H. Brown of Buffalo; Frank 
S. Oakes of Cattaraugus, Willis H. Tennant of Mayville, 
and Benjamin S. Dean of Jamestown, were the leaders in 
the movement. 


At a meeting held in Buffalo on May nth, the writer 
spoke of the growth of Buffalo from an Indian village to 
the sixth largest commercial port in the world in less than 
a hundred years, and sought to enlist local interest by call- 
ing attention to the possibilities of its future growth with 
a waterway extending from the Great Lakes to the Hudson, 
capacious enough to admit barges carrying a thousand or 
more tons of freight, and outlined the policy which had 
been adopted by the canal advocates of western New York 
to make an efficient campaign on the referendum measure 
in order that the people might fully understand its pro- 
visions and be prepared to ratify it at the coming election. 

On or about May 25, 1903, a long circular was issued 
in opposition to the approval of the referendum measure 
by sixteen of the State senators, some of whom opposed the 
final passage of the measure in the Senate. It contained, 
among other things, the following statement: 

"While much of the State's earlier prosperity is doubtless at- 
tributable to the canals, their history for many years reveals a record 
of inconsiderable importance in the vast commercial development of 
the times. While it can be readily appreciated what important a 
factor a tonnage of 1,635,089 tons on the Erie canal was in 1850 to 
the city of New York with a population of 650,000 people, and to the 
city of Buffalo with a population of 40,000, when the modem railroad 
was unknown, it can as easily be seen how small a factor in their 
commercial life, with their population increased six fold, was the 
tonnage of 2,105,876 tons in 1902, it being less than two-thirds of 
the tonnage of the canal in 1872 (3,562,560 tons). The latter growth 
of these cities has not been dependent upon and has not been checked 
by the decadence of the canal. If the policy of the State requires 
the expenditure of the State's moneys for the purpose of creating" 
facilities for transporting freight in competition with the existing 
railroads, why should it not be better for the State to construct a 
four track railroad from Buffalo to Albany along the present route 
of the Erie canal? Competent engineers have asserted, and the state- 
ment has never been contradicted, that such a railroad could be con- 
structed for a much smaller sum than it is proposed to expend in 
the construction of the barge canal. It is also .unquestionably true 
that the annual charge for maintenance of such a railroad would be 
smaller than the probable charge for canal maintenance. As the 


United State? has for many years had the greatest commercial de- 
velopment of any country, and New York State the greatest com- 
mercial development of any State, it would be well for us to pause 
before attempting to improve conditions acknowledged to be the best 
rn the world at a cost so heavy that it may seriously handicap the 
general welfare. There is the highest degree of probability that the 
estimates are too low; that great engineering works not included in 
the plan will be rendered necessary by unexpected contingencies in 
connection with supplying the canal with water, and in confining the 
water within its banks; that there will be large and unexpected 
damages to private interests which the State must pay. If carried 
through, the enterprise is sure to injure the laboring population now 
employed to the utmost and to bring either under the law or in spite 
of the law tens of thousands of foreign laborers of the lowest type, 
who will remain when the work is done a drag on our own civiliza- 
tion and a menace to our native workers. In many sections of the 
State, the canals are now drawing from our lakes and streams a 
supply of water sorely needed for manufacturing and municipal uses. 
If enlarged according to the proposed plans, the supply for the canals 
must be indefinitely increased at the immediate and direct loss not 
only to individuals, but to counties, cities and towns, whose growth 
and development may be retarded if not destroyed. 

"The State is now defraying the expenses of government without 
a direct tax levy. If this proposition is adopted, that policy may as 
well be openly abandoned, and whether abandoned or not the great 
expenditures incident to building the canal will indefinitely postpone 
the realization of the beneficent policy of the State regardless of 
party in building good roads and completing the acquisition of the 
State's forest parks, adequately providing for the State's charities 
and improving our educational system. Why should New York 
State expend one hundred and one million dollars in a doubtful ex- 
periment, to bring the products of the farms and factories and for- 
ests of the great Northwest to the seaboard for a dime less per ton 
than they are now transported? Such a public improvement should 
be undertaken, if at all, by the Federal Government, at national and 
not State expense. If undertaken, it should never be a thousand- 
ton barge canal, which cannot carry vessels fit for either the Great 
Lakes or the sea, but a ship canal from Lake Ontario to the Hudson 

This summary of the arguments used on the part of the 
opposition, however, had often been refuted and contained 
little that was justified by the facts, as they were disclosed 


in the history of canal development in this State. It was 
well known that several European nations owned a large 
part of their railways, and notwithstanding that, they had 
found it advantageous and commercially profitable to con- 
struct waterways through their respective territories for the 
handling of freight, which could be transported very much 
cheaper over governmental canals than over governmental 
railways. The argument in favor of the construction and 
operation of a State railway is answered by the experience 
in such foreign countries and it is against the traditions and 
the policy of this State to own and operate railroads. 

Further answer was made to the arguments advanced 
in this circular by several speakers. It is interesting, how- 
ever, as an evidence of the arguments presented by those 
who carried their opposition from legislative halls into the 
fora of the people, as did also some of the pro-canal 

A formal reply to the circular was made on June 10, 
1903, by Messrs. George Clinton, Henry B. Hebert, E. L. 
Boas, Gustav H, Schwab, Frank Brainard, John W. Fisher, 
R. R. Heftord, Frank S. Witherbee and Frederick O. Clark, 
the State committee for canal improvement. In this reply, 
among other things, is the following: 

"The conclusion arrived at by the committees of the State of New 
York is in line with the views announced by the committee of inter- 
state commerce of the United States Senate in 1885, as follows: 
'The evidence before the committee agrees with the experience of all 
the nations in recognizing water routes as the most efficient cheap- 
eners and regulators of railroad charges. Their influence is not con- 
fined within the limits of territory immediately accessible to water 
transportation, but extends further and controls railroad rates at 
such remote interior points as have competing lines reaching means 
of transportation by water. . . . With an enlarged Erie canal, 
barges could go to interior parts of New England without trans- 
shipment of cargo, and on the other hand we should have the 
mighty barges in which we could bring from New York City to our 
works on the lake the ores which must be imported from South 
Africa and the Caucasus, the saving over rail transportation to 
Philadelphia and Baltimore, would be so great that the western part 
of New York on the lakes would eventually become one of the prin- 


cipal cities of manufacture. Nothing can prevent this if suitable 
Waterways between Buffalo and the ocean be kept open. We intend 
to manufacture pig iron on Lake Erie to supply Rochester, Utica, 
Syracuse, Troy, and, of course, New York and the eastern parts, 
so that the foundries of these cities would have cheaper pig iron 
than ever before.' " 

In June George H. Raymond of Buffalo was made sec- 
retary of the Canal Improvement State Committee, and 
placed in charge of the bureau for the dissemination of 
canal literature, prepared in part by him and by others in 
the campaign on that measure. 

Early in the same month, George Clinton made a formal 
address in the city of Tcnawanda, in the course of which 
he said: 

"Here we come to consider the great benefit to be derived from 
the improvement of the canal which will bring commerce to our 
State ; it will cause to flow through this State the commerce of the 
West and the East in the proportion to which we are entitled by our 
natural advantages; it will build factories throughout the State, not 
only on the line of the canal, but north and south of it. But above 
all — and this is the economic value of this great undertaking — it will 
absolutely put in the hands of the State the power to prevent — in 
fact, it will itself prevent private corporations from controlling 
transportation and dictating where commerce shall go and where 
factories shall be built; what places shall grow and prosper and what 
shall not; and what individuals shall live in prosperity and who 
shall not. Without a controlling power the railroads can do all this; 
in other words, it will prevent private corporations from usurping 
the powers of the people. . . . Think of it a moment. At their 
dictation Tonawanda would live or die. I do not mean that it would 
absolutely pass out of existence, but it would probably pass into a 
condition which may be fitly characterized by that famous term 'in- 
nocuous desuetude.' So with Buffalo, so with New York, and so 
with every city on the line of the canal, and so with every place in 
this State. . . . 

"Do you know what they [the railroads] have done? . . . They 
have said that the advantages which we possess in this State, which 
Nature has given us, interfere with the proper division of traffic be- 
tween the railroads, and they have made in their freight rates what 
they call 'differentials' between the port of New York and the ports 
of the South, between New York and Boston, even; New York and 


Baltimore, New York and Philadelphia, New York and Newport 
News. What has been the result? Having wiped out the advant- 
ages of the situation, conditions which we have, the result inevitably 
has followed that the commerce of the port of New York, while not 
actually decreasing, has decreased so far as the proportion in total 
commerce is concerned, and that at the other ports has grown. . . . 
This means the decadence, not merely of a great port, but a blow at 
the prosperity of the entire State. • The Inter-state Commerce Com- 
mission, of the United States have said that this matter of differen- 
tials was a thing they could not interfere with under the Inter-state 
Commerce law, but that the State of New York has an ample remedy 
springing from the advantages which Nature has given her and that 
that remedy was the proper improvement of her canals." 

During this time the New York Sun conducted a cam- 
paign against the canal referendum measure and in its daily 
issues presented facts and statements not only prejudicial 
but in some instances misleading, with the evident purpose 
of prejudicing the minds of the voters against the measure. 
In one of its issues appears this statement: 

"With the money which the Davis law proposes to sink in the 
Erie canal the State could build a four-track railroad on the banks 
of the canal and equip it in the most modern fashion and carry free 
of all charges to any one every pound of freight that comes to the 
port of Buffalo. With the canal as a roadbed and no right of way 
to secure from Buffalo to Albany, the road could be constructed and 
equipped for less than twenty million dollars. ... If the transpor- 
tation question were one of reason rather than tradition, of business 
rather than reckless extravagance, these contrasts of figures might 
appeal to the sane minds of the voters." 

The figures, however, presented were themselves com- 
piled by anti-canal v/orkers, said to be largely under rail- 
road domination, and would not bear analysis or close scru- 

The Journal of Commerce and several other metropoli- 
tan organs maintained throughout the campaign a consid- 
erate but friendly attitude and discussed the matter in a 
broad and statesmanlike manner. Neither politics, nor 
partisanship, nor railroad domination affected these latter 
journals in their discussion of the broad policy, which the 
State ought to pursue towards its avenues of transportation. 


The agitation for the measure was no less vigorous than 
that of the opposition. In the campaign of 1895 thirty- 
three counties cast a majority vote against the nine million 
dollar referendum measure, and the opponents of the barge 
canal law looked to these anti-canal counties to cast a heavy 
vote against it. Appeals were made to their prejudices and 
their alleged interests, not to burden themselves with such 
an expense as would be entailed upon them if the bond issue 
were approved, with little or no prospect of any benefits to 
the localities of these anti-canal counties. Rural papers, 
railroad and corporate influences of various kinds were 
vociferous in denunciation of the measure, and during the 
summer the opposition was so strong that the canal advo- 
cates organized a Canal Enlargement Committee, of which 
the Hon. George Clinton of Buffalo was chairman. Henry 
B. Hebert, chairman of the Canal Association of Greater 
New York, E. L. Boas, Gustav H. Schwab, Frank Brainard, 
John W. Fisher, R. R. Hefford, Frank S. Witherbee and 
Frederick O. Clarke were members, with power to prepare 
and publish such statements as they considered wise in 
advocacy of the measure. 

An important canal meeting was held in Lockport, on 
July 9th, presided over by Willard T. Ransom, which was 
addressed by F. Howard Mason, secretary of the Chamber 
of Commerce of Buffalo, and others. 

The friends and foes of the measure realized that the 
issue was one largely dependent on an intelligent under- 
standing of its provisions and purposes by the million and a 
quarter of electors who were to vote upon it at the coming 
election. The proposed amendments submitted by the Con- 
stitutional Convention of 1867 had largely failed of popular 
approval from a lack of understanding of their provisions, 
and it was possible that the barge canal measure with its 
several provisions, such as those relating to engineering, 
finance, change of route, adequate water supply, and the 
enormous expenditure authorized to complete the work, and 
to maintain it after it was completed, might fail for a similar 
reason. Furthermore, there were many who were not ready 
to admit that water transportation was more economical 


than railway transportation, upon which latter means of 
transportation many communities were entirely dependent, 
and could not see how they were to be benefited by the pro- 
posed canal improvement. They looked upon these matters 
with as much aversion as did the Roman, who, in the lan- 
guage of Macaulay, would 

"Leave to the Greek his marble nymphs 
And scrolls of wordy lore." 

Not only was there the general apathy throughout the 
State, but there was also the active hostility of the railroads 
and railroad interests to the measure.. Those who took a 
broader view of the question of cheap transportation as an 
indispensable requisite for the industrial development of the 
State, appreciated the conditions obtaining and the dangers 
that beset the canal referendum measure. It is not possible 
to give a detailed account of all the meetings held or efforts 
put forth to inform the people and convince them of the 
necessity of voting right on the referendum measure, nor 
is it possible to enumerate all that was done in opposition 
to the measure. Both sides presented such arguments as 
they thought were most likely to produce the results they 
desired, but the campaign was essentially an educational 
one. Its importance was such as to absorb public attention 
in many localities, as may be seen from the record that 
follows of some of the meetings that were held, and of the 
efforts put forth by citizens of various counties for and 
against the measure. 

At the Republican county convention, held in Wyoming 
county on July 27, 1903, Mr. W. II. Roeper presented an 
anti-canal resolution, in opposition to the referendum 
measure, in which it was stated that "it will be a sacrifice 
of the interests of the rest of the State in behalf of the 
interests of the few" if such a bond issue were auhorized, 
and that "we do urge upon all Republicans in the county to 
do their utmost to accomplish the defeat of this pernicious 
measure" ; and he made some remarks in support of the 
resolution which came as an entire surprise to the majority 


of the members of the convention. At the conclusion of Mr. 
Rncper's remarks, the Hon. Greenleaf S. Van Gorder, State 
Senator from 1890 to 1893 inclusive, took the floor in oppo- 
sition to the adoption of the resolution, and in a spirited 
address appealed to the members of the convention not to 
approach the consideration of such a subject in a pessimistic 
way, but in a broad and enlightened way, and asked them to 
overlook the fact that they were residents of the county of 
Wyoming merely, but to remember the fact that they were 
residents of the great State of New York, the Empire State 
of the Union. Senator Frederick C. Stevens replied to Mr. 
Van Gorder, and spoke in favor of the adoption of the 
resolution. After Mr. Van Gorder's reply, the Hon. John 
N. Davidson took up the discussion in behalf of the resolu- 
tion, which was adopted, but only after the most spirited 
discussion that had been had in a convention on that county 
for years. The entire press of the county, w r ith the excep- 
tion of the Wyoming county Gazette, published at Pike, and 
the Silver Springs Signal, published at Silver Springs, op- 
posed the approval of the referendum measure; but the 
vote in Wyoming county, notwithstanding the strong anti- 
canal sentiment, was 865 votes for the measure to 3,593 
votes against it, which was as favorable a showing as could 
be expected in a county wholly out of touch with canal 
transportation and interests. Senator Van Gorder and other 
friends of the referendum measure in that county accom- 
plished as much for the measure as did those where the 
opportunities were far more favorable, and the vote much 
larger. The showing in Wyoming county was quite as 
favorable as the returns from other non-canal counties, 
with the exception possibly of Cattaraugus. 

On July 28, 1903, a banquet was given under the auspices 
of the Canal Improvement Association at the auditorium in 
Utica, attended by 300 citizens of that city. It was the 
largest banquet ever held in that vicinity and numbered 
among the prominent banqueters the Hon. Horatio Sey- 
mour, ex-State Engineer and Surveyor, who presided ; Hon. 
Philip W. Casler, ex-President of the State Grange; G. E. 


Cangiano, editor of La Luce; C. E. Watson of Clinton, A. 
R. Kessinger of Rome, Jacob Agne, S. S. Lowery, Gustave 
H. Schwab of New York, State Senator William Townsend 
of Utica, John Andrew of Barneveld, E. B. Griffin of 
Clinton, E. H. Kingsbury, Mayor of Little Falls, Henry W. 
Roberts, county treasurer, and many others, including the 
editors of the local papers and representatives from the 
neighboring cities and towns. 

The first speaker at the banquet was Senator William 
Townsend, who had voted for the canal referendum meas- 
ure in the Senate. In his address he said : 

"It is eminently fitting that the first gun of the campaign for 
canal enlargement should be fired in Utica, for it was on the soil of 
Oneida county, in Rome, that De Witt Clinton, more than three- 
quarters of a century ago, turned the first sod in the construction of 
the Erie canal. Perhaps that is the reason why we in this locality have 
always taken special interest in every movement looking toward the 
perpetuation and betterment of the State waterway. True it is that 
we tonight extend a most hearty welcome to the committee on canal 
improvement under whose auspices this meeting is assembled and 
at whose expense we seem to be eating and drinking. No great 
public improvement was ever suggested that did not meet with op- 
position; it is not to be expected that a proposition to expend one 
hundred and one millions of State money, to be raised by taxation, 
will be carried offhand and without some protest. Every community 
harbors two classes of men, the optimist and the pessimist; men 
who believe in progress, in advancement, and men who are content 
to live in the conservatism of the past. . . . 

"There is something, it seems to me, beyond dollars and cents 
involved in this proposition. It is the commercial supremacy of the 
State. Shall we retain it, or will we allow a narrow, selfish policy 
to wrest it from us? What has given New York her supremacy? 
Horatio Seymour in his declining years, sitting on the porch of his 
Deerfield home overlooking the historic valley of the Mohawk, would 
delight to call the attention of his visitor to the topography of the 
country in his range of vision, and in his own entrancing language 
tell the wonderful effect it had on the early history of the State of 
New York. How it stood at the parting of the waters, how it gave 
the Iroquois their commanding position and made the Six Nations 
masters of their people; how the waters ran to the Hudson, the St. 
Lawrence and the Gulf of Mexico, creating natural highways ot 


commerce through this State. . . . Up the Hudson, through the 
Nfohawk and connecting streams and on the Great Lakes she is pro- 
vided with a natural highway of commerce over which the pro- 
ductions of the mighty West can find their way to the sea. The 
problem of the future is cheap transportation. Commerce v/ill fol- 
low the lines of least resistance. If New York does not provide the 
means of cheap freight outlet to the ocean, it will seek some other 
channel and some other locality will have the benefit. . . . Congress 
will never vote for a barge canal through the State of New York 
until a majority of the congressmen reside within the State. The 
representative from the South and West, or the delegate from 
Honolulu will never give his support to a measure that would so 
enhance the commercial supremacy of the State of New York. If 
the work is done, we must do it; and if it is not done, we must rue 
it. . . . Beyond the question of present cost; against the objections 
and criticisms that can always be made to any great public improve- 
ment, the future prosperity of our State should guide the judgment 
of her citizens in every ballot cast." 1 

F. B. Griffin of Clinton said: 

"It has been stated that the Grangers of the State are opposed to 
the barge canal, but thank God, Marcey Grange is an exception. 
Other granges have struck a blow at the commercial and industrial 
prosperity of the State. Six weeks ago I was against the project, 
but the change of heart was not brought about by my legal or spir- 
itual adviser, but by the exercise of common sense. I am here to- 
night to answer the arguments I then made. One of the arguments 
was that it would bring products of the West into competition with 
the products of the East. I now believe that New York State far- 
mers are no longer sellers but purchasers of the products of the 
West. Years ago New York was the leading hop producing State 
of the Union. Now they are produced by the far West and we no 
longer raise many hops. But today, instead of hops, we are raising 
products for the canning factories, and they pay better. We all 
know that canning factory products will not be shipped by the barge 
canal. We are largely interested in dairy products and the milk we 
produce is shipped in its natural state to New York City. Whatever 
adds to the population and prosperity of New York State helps the 
dairyman of the State. We will not ship our milk by the barge 
canal, but by railroad and it will go at the reduced rate because the 
canal is a freight regulator." 

i. From report in the Utica Oburver. 


Hon. Philip W. Casler of Little Falls, ex-president of 
the State Grange, spoke in part as follows : 

"I own at Little Falls a farm on which I live and on which I hope 
my children will live as my ancestors have before me for nearly two 
hundred years. One of the first things I did when this canal question 
came up was to determine just how much it would cost me in taxes 
on my farm should the State be allowed by the vote of the people to 
issue for this great improvement in its transportation facilities. Our 
comptroller has figured it all out and states that a tax of $1.20 per 
thousand of assessed valuation will create a fund sufficient to pay 
the interest on the one hundred and one million dollars and liquidate 
the principal in eighteen years. My assessment is about $5,ooo, so it 
would cost me six dollars per year or $108 in eighteen years, pro- 
viding it be raised as a general tax — and we have every reason to 
believe that it will not be — as my share of the 'terrible burden of 
taxation' which our friends the anti-canal men tell us will rest on the 
shoulders of our 'children and grandchildren for generations yet 
unborn,' should w r e sanction the measure by our vote. Well, what 
returns would I get for this extra tax of $6 per year? The friends 
of the canal tell me — and its enemies too — so it must be true — that 
it will make the western feed I have to buy for a $60 cow, dairy, 
cheaper whether it comes by rail or water. Well, 50 cents a ton on 
the feed I would use will pay the tax increase twice over." 

Col. Charles E. Watson of Clinton said : 

"Our beautiful town of Clinton has long been noted for its edu- 
cational institutions, its iron industries and its mineral springs. It 
is now distinguished by being the fountainhead of anti-canal litera- 
ture, with our venerable friend as editor-in-chief, of whom it might 
well be said, as the New York Times says of John I. Piatt, 'he is the 
avowed foe, not merely of canal improvement, but of canals. If he 
could have his way the canals would be abandoned and the railroads 
w r ould get a monopoly of the transportation business. He is not a 
critic of the plans, nor an advocate of any particular kind of canal. 
All canals are equally odious to him. Nor is it the frightful sum of 
one hundred and one millions that scares him. If a canal 43 feet 
deep and 205 feet wide could be dug straight across the State from 
the Hudson to lake for a dollar and a quarter, he would sturdily 
oppose the project.' " 


After reviewing several propositions, Col. Watson con- 
tinues as follows: 

"These various propositions are made merely to divide the sup- 
porters of the canal. For instance, I will quote from Mr. Haupt, the 
first speaker of the anti-canal convention at Rochester. He said: 

" 'It is therefore of the utmost importance that in submitting the 
question of an appropriation for a canal to the people of this State, 
it should not be hampered, by limitations as to capacity, but that it 
should be of such dimensions as to meet, not only present, but future 
requirements of this rapidly expanding country. It should be of 
national character and it will be found that the general policy of the 
General Government is to help them who help themselves. Let the 
great Empire State meet the emergency and improve the opportunity 
for own and the national welfare.' 

"Gentlemen, should you think that this was delivered at an anti- 
canal meeting? The facts are, what these speakers propose would 
cost twice as much as a barge canal and as to their relative import- 
ance I will quote from Mr. Wright, who says: 'The ship canal is 
just as feasible and just as far advanced as the barge canal project.' 
Stand together on the thousand-ton barge canal and do a good serv- 
ice to your State." 

C. E. Cangiano, editor of the Italian paper La Luce, 

"The only means of competition to the railroads in the past have 
been the canals, which for some unknown reasons have been allowed 
to get into such a condition of decadence as to afford no illustration 
whatever of what properly developed waterways mean. It is for the 
purpose of placing these waterways upon the highest plane of im- 
provement and efficiency that this campaign has been undertaken. 
The development of waterways in the various countries of the world 
has invariably shown that it has been followed by great stimulus to 
every industrial and commercial industry within their reach." 

Other speeches were made by John Andrew of Barne- 
veld and Gustave H. Schwab of New York. The stimulus 
given to the canal campaign by these meetings in Central 
New York, within a few miles of Rome where the original 
Erie canal had its beginning in 1817, on July 4th, attended 
as this meeting was by prominent citizens from various 
parts of the Mohawk Valley, made a profound impression 


on the voters in that territory, and its influence was felt 
throughout the State. 

The speakers on that occasion represented various shades 
of opinion that had prevailed from time to time on the 
canal question, and the unanimity of sentiment which 
seemed to prevail illustrates the meritorious character of the 
campaign for canal improvement which won it friends 
wherever the matter was fairly and dispassionately consid- 
ered. Only those with preconceived opinions or conflicting 
interests, long entertained their opposition to the measure 
after the advantages afforded by canal transportation were 
fully understood. 

On August 1st a large meeting was held at the Three 
River Point in Onondaga county, which was addressed by 
the Hon. Benjamin S. Dean of Jamestown. In the course 
of that address the speaker said : 

"Upon the principle that we ought to speak well of the bridge 
that carries us safely over, every man in the State of New York 
should take off his hat to the Erie canal. It has made the most 
prolific and bountiful states in the Union tributary to the greatness 
of New York; it has diverted the population, which was following 
the natural waterways into the interior of the country and made 
them the preservers of the national life, and it deserves some grace 
of memory at the hands of those who have been prospered by reason 
of its existence. . . . 

"It has been suggested, however, that it would be better for the 
State of New York to build and equip a four-track railroad along 
the line of the proposed canal and by this means be able to compete 
with the railroads. This suggestion comes largely from those who 
would be the first to denounce such a scheme as socialistic and revo- 
lutionary., and is echoed by those who believe in State ownership and 
those who are ignorant of the economic elements which enter into 
the problem. A canal-boat of the present dimensions carries ap- 
proximately two hundred and fifty tons. This boat with its load is 
drawn by a three-mule team at the rate of two miles an hour. Two 
hundred and fifty tons is about ten modern car-loads and I under- 
take to say that there are not three mules in the State of New York 
that can draw these ten cars, without an ounce of freight, over any 
average twenty miles of railroad a day. Actual scientific tests have 
demonstrated that a single horse, weighing twelve hundred pounds, 


(raveling at the rate of two and a half miles an hour for eleven and 
a half hours per day, will produce a result equal to the moving of 
five hundred twenty tons one mile. The same horse working the 
«me time at the same rate will move on a railroad on a level one 
hundred and fifteen tons one mile and upon a turnpike fourteen tons. 
It will thus be seen that the energy expended in moving freight by 
railroad on a level track is more than four times that which is neces- 
sary in moving it by water, while it is well known that traffic between 
Buffalo and the seaboard has to overcome a grade of over 600 feet, 
multiplied many times by the nature of the country traversed. As- 
suming, then, that we could construct a four-track railroad, as sug- 
gested, for the cost of constructing the enlarged canal, is there any 
man in the possession of his senses who would think it wise to 
make this needless expenditure of energies? It would, beyond all 
question, require more energy to move the cars necessary to carry 
the traffic, without freight, than would be required to carry the entire 
estimated tonnage of the canals by water, and the cost of maintain- 
ing a railroad per mile is more than the canal by a percentage so 
large that it is useless to mention figures. The wasteful consump- 
tion of coal in locomotive boilers, which realize only from three to 
five per cent, of the energy, is a matter which is of growing im- 
portance and those v/ho look to the welfare of the future must 
hesitate to continue a policy which is thus wantonly destructive of 
the resources of the nation.'' 

Thereafter meetings were called in various parts of the 
State and addressed by many prominent well-known canal 
advocates. Among them were the following: On August 
22d, at Lily Dale, in Chautauqua, which was addressed by 
Daniel F. Toomey, Willis H. Tennant, Ernest Cawcroft, 
Benjamin S. Dean, W. H. Beach, Clare Pickard and Henry 
W. Hill, and was the first large meeting in the south- 
western part of the State. It was attended by people from 
several counties, prominent among those present being the 
Hon. John Woodward of Jamestown, Justice of the Su- 
preme Court; Clare A. Pickard and Frank S. Oaks of 

Hon. John D. Kernan of Utica, who had been the presi- 
dent of the three State Commerce Conventions, made an 
address on the referendum measure in Troy in August, 
1903, in which he set forth in forceful and logical language 


the controlling- arguments which the people recognized in 
their affirmative vote on that measure. 

The campaign was opened in Jefferson county at a. 
Republican convention, during which Hon. Patrick W. 
Callinan of Oswego spoke at some length on the pending 
measure in a manner that impressed the delegates in attend- 
ance from that and other counties. The vote in Jefferson 
county, notwithstanding the hostility of the local press, was 
1,924 for it to 11,166 against it. The sentiment, how- 
ever, along the Black river and canal later became more 
pro-canal, in view of the prospective improvement of that 

The opposition was no less active and the press in the 
rural counties devoted much space to a partial presentation 
of the facts, which were not generally understood by lay- 
writers out of touch with the scope and purposes of and 
data underlying the referendum measure. 

On September 16. 1903, a large meeting was held at the 
Utica Chamber of Commerce, addressed by Hon. John D. 
Kernan, a former New York State railroad commissioner, 
in favor of the referendum measure, and opposed by Rev. 
E. P. Powell of Clinton. During his speech on that occa- 
sion, Mr. Kernan said: 

"Waterways serve to supplement railroads and highways, but 
highways and canals are free for public use and hence cannot be 
entirely monopolized. Railroads are profitable concerns and in busi- 
ness for profit. To protect the people against the tendency of rail- 
roads to charge all they can get regardless of the cost of service or 
a fair profit, has been the object of an immense amount of legisla- 
tion for fifty years. . . . You cannot regulate complicated railroad 
rates in that way [by commissions] or by statute and we might as 
well quit the experiment and try something else. Older nations 
than we have found this something else to be canals and internal 
highways, owned and controlled by the State and kept in the same 
condition of modern improvement that railroads are. These are 
found to operate effectively as rate regulators, particularly on coarse 
freight, because water transportation is thus far the cheapest trans- 
portation known. Ocean rates average about one-half mill ; lake 
rates, three-quarters of a mill, and canal rates, two mills. Even on 
our neglected Erie, and New York Central rates on a modern rail- 


road, at least six mills per ton per mile, or twelve times the ocean 
rate. For this reason railroads bring their grain 865 miles by lake 
to Buffalo, from Chicago, instead of hauling 440 miles by rail. 

"The competitive effect of water competition upon rail rates is 
seen in the following class rates in both directions on two great 

"New York and Pittsburg: 1 — 45, 2—39, 3 — 30, 4 — 21, 5 — 18, 

"New York and Buffalo: 1 — 39, 2 — 33, 3—28, 4—19, 5 — 16, 6 — 12. 

"This means that because of canal competition we in New York 
State pay an average of nearly 5c per one hundred pounds less 
freight between New York and Buffalo and intermediate stations 
than the people of Pennsylvania pay the Pennsylvania road for like 

"Since the days of Clinton the value of the canal as a rate regu- 
lator in their day has been urged by our statesmen of all parties, 
such as Seymour, Tilden, Evarts, Conkling, Fish and Hewett. . . . 
My practical knowledge of how the farmer needs the canal centers 
about my farm at Forestport. All the flour we use and much of the 
grain we feed to our stock comes from the West and we want to 
get it as cheap as we can. Our canal rates are now just one-half 
railroad rates, from nearby canal points and that suits us well and 
will suit us better when the barge canal makes rates cheaper still 
and from a greater distance. Do not four-fifths of the farmers of 
the State eat western flour and feed western grain? And if so, do 
they not want the cheapest way to get it here? We find at Forest- 
port that we can put our land to better use than raising grain for 
market, and we have no desire to close up canals to pay railroad 
rates and to go back into that business in competition with cheap 
fertile western lands. 

"It is not the canal that brings eggs, butter, cheese, beef, mutton, 
pork, lard, vinegar, and fruit to compete with our farmers; that is 
what the railroads do, and will do, canal or no canal. We can send 
our potatoes to New York City from Forestport by boat for six or 
seven cents per bushel, with winter storage added until they are 
sold. The railroads ask 13 cents a bushel with no storage; and if we 
had no canal, we fear they would charge more and leave very little 
of the market price to us, unless it forced the consumer, who is 
generally as poor as ourselves, to pay a good deal more. . . . Every 
farmer in the State gets some of this benefit from the canal. Those 
near the canal get the most benefit and pay the most taxes ; but all 
get some, because, as I have before stated, even here railroad rates 
are affected by canal competition, or at least were when the canal 


was comparatively fit and will be again when it is properly improved 
and managed. No matter where a farmer lives, his rate to and from 
New York is on some part of the route lowered by canal competition ; 
a barge canal will lower it much more." 1 

The Rev. E. P. Powell said : 

"I have consulted the best authorities and find a single track 
electric railroad can be built for five thousand dollars per mile under 
all conditions that lie along the Erie canal. A double track would 
include all equipment except in the cars. The entire cost of an 
electric road from the Lakes to the Hudson would be under two and 
a half millions of dollars. The electric power development for the 
use of the road could be used at the same time for the canals. The 
road would not be a substitute for the canal, but a supplement. Wc 
have thus before us a proposition which meets every argument urged 
in favor of the barge canal, but avoids the enormous expense; serves 
as a freight regulator through the winter as well as the summer, can 
be put in operation inside of two years, serves New York City and 
all her commercial demands far better than the barge canal could do, 
even if successful. It does not rob the towns or cities of any of 
their present rights, but adds to their privileges. A scheme entirely 
feasible, economic and democratic." 

He then proceeded to summarize his argument in sixteen 
different propositions, some of which were not germain to 
the questions involved, and all of them more or less im- 
practicable and visionary. They were such as might be 
expected from a gentleman skilled in academic propositions 
rather than from a person trained in the practical affairs of 
State. But they well illustrate the wide range of discussion 
on the problem during the canal campaign and further 
illustrate some phases of the opposition encountered from 
men schooled as was Mr. Powell in theoretical rather than 
practical matters. 

On September 19th at Jamestown, N. Y., Hon. Newell 
Cheney, former member of Assembly and a prominent 
leader in State Grange work, said : 

"It may be recalled that President Garfield began life as a canal 

From report in the Utica Press. 


"Again, it is said that canal transportation is antequated and this 
in face of the fact that Canada and all the enterprising countries of 
Europe are investing millions in building canals and improving their 
waterways. Our consul-general, Mason, in Germany, best states the 
condition there. In a recent report he says: 'German statesmanship 
was among the first to foresee that the time would come when rail- 
roads having reached their maximum extension and efficiency, there 
would remain a vast supply of coarse raw material — coal, ores, timber, 
stone and crude material — which could be economically carried long 
distances only by water transportation, and that in a fully-developed 
national system the proper role of railroads would be to carry pas- 
sengers and the higher class of merchandize, manufactured from raw 
materials, which the waterways had brought to their doors.' 

"The location of Buffalo at the foot of the lakes is a great gate- 
way of commerce between the West and the East. It has the great- 
est water and electric power in the world at its command, and fur- 
nished adequate water communication with New York, it is destined 
to be the largest manufacturing and distributing center, and one of 
the largest cities in the United States. The Congress of the United 
States, representing the interests of all the states, cannot be expected 
to make an appropriation for building a canal, giving New York an 
advantage over other states. If the canal is built, New York must 
build it. The barge canal is essential to hold the great commerce of 
the lakes and the West from seeking other routes and to continue 
the supremacy of New York as the Empire State. This is the logic 
of good business sense. Every farmer in Chautauqua county will be 
benefited far above the cost to him, by the increased value of his 
land and socially as well as financially by the increased inter-com- 
munication between city and country/' 

Mr. Evan Thomas of New York said: 

"Either the Erie canal must be improved to modern requirements 
or New York City, and as a natural consequence the State, lose its 
commerce, and once started on a down grade the descent is swift." 

A. C. Barnes said : 

"I believe the canal to be the artery without which our vigorous 
commercial life cannot be sustained. New conditions are hardly con- 
ceivable that will enable land transportation to compete with ade- 
quate waterways in cheapness. In my own business, publishing, we 
now rely on the canals for the bulk of our western shipments. With- 
out them we should have to manufacture them for the western 


On September 23, T903, on motion of the Hon. Lewis 
Nixon, chairman of the Canal Committee of the Board of 
Trade and Transportation, the following timely resolution 
was adopted : 

"Resolved, By the New York Board of Trade of Transportation 
that it is essential to the prosperity of our city and State, and to 
their continued supremacy in commerce, manufacture and wealth 
that the people of the State at the general election to be held on the 
3rd of November next, shall endorse by their votes Chapter 147 of 
the Laws of 1903, entitled 'An act making provision for issuing 
bonds to the amount of not to exceed one hundred one million dol- 
lars for the improvement of the Erie canal, the Oswego canal and 
the Champlain canal,' and providing for the submission of the same 
to the people to be voted upon at the general election to be held in 
the year 1903 ; be it further 

"Resolved, That we earnestly appeal to all citizens, without regard 
to party affiliation, to register and vote for the canal proposition upon 
the ballot for this purpose which wili be handed to each voter at 
every polling place on election day; be it further 

"Resolved. That the president of the board be requested to ap- 
point a special committee of fifty members for purpose of bringing 
this important subject to the especial attention of all the voters of 
Greater New York, and to cooperate with similar committees (of 
other organizations) if deemed advisable." 

This resolution was unanimously adopted. Thereupon 
the president, the Hon. Oscar S. Straus, appointed a com- 
mittee of fifty of the leading business men of New York 
City, among whom were Lewis Nixon, ex-Mayor Charles 
A. Schieren, Darwin R. James, G. Waldo Smith, Ludwig 
Nissen, William E. Geary, Frank S. Witherbee, General 
Henry E. Tremain, William B. Parsons, General E. A. 
McAlpin, Hugh J. Chisholm, Aaron Vanderbilt, Charles E. 
Hughes, Edward F. Cole, Philip S. Tikien, Col. A. G. Mills 
and others. 

Prominent among the canal advocates were such well- 
known gentlemen as Hon. Bird S. Coler, ex-Mayor Seth 
Low, and ex-Mayor Charles A. Schieren, all of whom 
devoted time and presented strong arguments in favor of 
canal improvement before that question became a matter 
for popular consideration. Both Mr. Coler and Mr. 
Schieren strongly advocated the approval of the referendum 


measure. During- the latter part of the campaign on that 
subject Mr. Schicren was at the head of the Canal Enlarge- 
ment Committee of Greater New York, and gave unspar- 
ingly of his time to carry to a successful conclusion the 
canal issue. The Hon. Seth Low had repeatedly declared 
his belief in the importance of water transportation as an 
economic proposition, and approved the canal referendum 

On September 24, 1903, Governor Benjamin Odell, at 
the Seneca county fair, said: 

''Already the supremacy of the port of New York is threatened 
and upon us is the responsibility for solution of the problem and for 
the preservation of our commerce. High and patriotic motives 
should control your action. It seems almost incredible that among 
intelligent men there should be an entire elimination of higher mo- 
tives in reaching a decision in this matter, because of the expenditure 
of money or the taxation which may result. I have too much faith 
in the common sense of the people, particularly those of the rural 
communities, to believe that unworthy motives may prevent public 
improvements that mean the advancement and progress of the State 
— to believe that the fear of taxes may prevent New York from tak- 
ing and holding her proper place in the great future. 

"Each one of the 370,000 farmers in this State has an interest in 
the growth of the city of New York, because it is the principal mar- 
ket for their $245,270,600 worth of products; because their $55,- 
474J55 worth of dairy products would be much less valuable if 
poorly paid workmen were their customers. 

"I make these suggestions because there is a possibility of the 
$1,069,723,895 worth of farm lands being taxed its proportion of the 
necessary amount of about $4,200,000 annually for the enlargement 
of the Erie canal. Do you understand how small and insignificant 
the amount would actually be if the tax were authorized and should 
be levied directly upon these lands? While I have faith in the 
promise that a direct tax shall not be levied and do not admit tha*- 
the necessity will ever arise for it again, yet let us suppose that it 
will be, and what is the result? Of the total assessment of the State, 
this land does not average much more than one-tenth. The average 
value per acre in the State is $47.23 — in other words a hundred acre 
farm would cost $4723. The average assessment is but 50 per cent, 
and the assessed valuation of the one hundred acre farm would be 
but $23,061. With the State valuation of six billion dollars, the av- 


erage tax, under a fifty year bond plan, would be 70 cents per one 
thouand dollars of valuation, or $1.65 on the hundred acre farm. 

''If, therefore, better water facilities will bring into the State 
more manufactories ; if we can bring the iron trade from the West; 
if your markets are enlarged, do you think that out of the prosperous 
future you men of the farm can afford to pay this small pittance for 
the building and supporting of this great improvement? I give these 
figures for the purpose of controverting the claim that increased tax 
burdens will follow, to the end that you may weigh this question 
more upon the lines of public utility and necessity. The past gives 
ample evidence of the growth which followed the construction of the 
Erie canal. The present is not lacking of evidence of its value. The 
future depends upon our own conception of the necessities of the 
times. If we seize every opportunity for advancement, if we work 
together for the public interest, then we shall be able to accomplish 
results which will be for the permanent good of all parts of the 
State, similar to those which have followed great public improve- 
ments in the city of New York and other municipalities, which have 
resulted in increased valuation, better markets, and a greater ability 
to meet the other problems of our State, particularly those which 
have to do with rural communities." 

This speech of Governor Odell's was widely circulated 
and read throughout the State, and made a deep impression 
on the voters. It is a clear statement of the questions in- 
volved in the referendum measure, worthy of the Governor 
who had given the measure his official approval and forever 
linked his name with that of De Witt Clinton, the author 
of the first great canal act of this State. 

On October 4, 1903, the historical phases of the canal 
question were the subject of consideration in the Buffalo 
Historical Society at a meeting. held in its lecture-room, 
which was largely attended by prominent Buftalonians in- 
terested in the matter. By request I made the principal 
address on that occasion. On the following evening I spoke 
in the council chamber in Troy in joint debate with the 
Hon. John I. Piatt of Poughkeepsie. In the course of his 
argument Mr. Piatt said: 

"Whenever you meet a canal man he always claims that canal 
rates are cheaper than railroad rates. I do not know where in the 
world they get their figures from. They certainly are not so. They 


evidently do not figure on the amount the canals cost the State, but 
merely the cost to the shippers. Here is a question of public owner- 
ship. A1J authorities on public ownership agree that users should pay 
the expense. I never heard this axiom, as it has come to be looked 
upon, disputed. . . . Our salvation is in our railways and we should 
encourage rather than discourage railroads. It is a shame to try to 
tax them out of existence. Certainly it is not right to tax the rail- 
roads three millions per year and then expend three millions on the 

In reply to the statements of Mr. Piatt that in fixing the 
canal rate the original cost of the canal system as well as 
the operating expenses should be taken into consideration, 
I stated that the same principle should be applied in deter- 
mining the railway rate, and if that method were to be 
adopted in the case of the New York General system, with 
its existing funded debt of approximately $230,414,845, its 
capital stock of $150,000,000, and its operating expenses, it 
would be seen that the then existing railway rate of 6.4 
mills per ton mile very- naturally and necessarily exceeded 
the present canal rate and far exceeded the probable barge 
canal rate and that Mr. Piatt's argument would not stand 
the test, which he had invoked and intended to be applied 
only in determining the canal rate. 

Notwithstanding the numerous meetings held in various 
parts of the State, the aggressiveness of the opposition was 
so great and the apparent apathy through the rural counties 
so stolid, that grave doubt existed in some localities as to 
the result at the coming election. Commercial bodies in 
New York City finally entered upon a spirited campaign. 
The New York Produce Exchange, with its canal enlarge- 
ment committee, under the chairmanship of that veteran 
canal advocate, Henry B. Hebert, was untiring in its energy, 
resourcefulness and ability in formulating and disseminat- 
ing information that would enlighten the electors upon vari- 
ous phases of the subject. The Merchants' Association of 
New York sent out thousands of circulars, embodying such 
statements as the following: 

"By far the greater number of business men and manufacturers 
in this State, and a very large proportion of all other classes, are 


firm in the belief that the continued prosperity of this State depends 
upon improving and enlarging the Erie canal and developing it to 
the fullest capacity, in order that the great current of traffic may not 
be diverted to other channels. Boston, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New- 
Orleans, Galveston, and many other smaller ports, are all gaining 
rapidly in the volume of their commerce. New York alone is falling 
behind. The reason why it is falling behind is that great railroad 
interests are diverting its traffic, which can only be regained and held 
by canal enlargement. 

"New York's commercial supremacy depends upon keeping trade 
currents flowing through this city. Trade currents follow the line 
of least resistance; that is to say, the line of transportation that is 

"New York is what it is because about seventy-five years ago it 
was able to distribute manufactured products throughout a large part 
of the United States and transport the natural products of those sec- 
tions to the seacoast at less cost for transportation than was possible 
to other trade centers. Both Boston and Philadelphia led New York 
before that. The advantage passed to New York when the Erie 
canal came into existence. The great undertaking made an easy 
pathway from what was then the extreme Northwest. It was the 
chief element in the rapid development of the Northwestern States, 
for the reason that it enabled them to find a foreign market for their 
grain products, without which market those products had little value. 

"A waterway from the heart of the continent to the seacoast 
created a vast export in grain. The trade centered almost wholly 
in this city. The ships that came here to carry these natural products 
to foreign countries could not come empty. This brought cargoes 
of the manufactured products which we then did not make, and, 
therefore, New York became the chief depot whence the people of 
the whole country supplied most of their needs. . . . 

"Today cheap transportation requires large cargoes. Trade cur- 
rents will flow wherever large cargoes can be floated, and only there. 
The Erie canal created New York, so to speak. Only its enlargement 
can maintain what it has already won and create a far greater future 
prosperity. Preeminence in foreign commerce is the manifest des- 
tiny of this city, provided that it continues to afford the line of 
cheapest transportation. 

"Factories in the midst of farms is the condition of greatest pros- 
perity for State or Nation. 

"The most profitable condition for farmers is a large home mar- 
ket for their products. 

"The most profitable condition for retail merchants is the exist- 


ends of a large wage-earning population, receiving and expending a 
large volume of wages every week. 

"The most advantageous place for factories is where raw ma- 
terials, fuel, and food supply can be brought together most cheaply, 
and finished products distributed at least cost. 

"Water transportation under the most favorable conditions is 
always cheaper than rail transportation under the most favorable 
conditions. . . . 

"The Merchants' Association of New York urges upon the people 
of the State in every locality to give serious consideration to these 
great economic truths, which not only warrant but demand the out- 
lay by the State of the great sum of money required to deepen the 
Erie canal to float thousand-ton barges. The people everywhere are 
therefore urged to vote for that enlargement at the coming election." 

The Board of Trade and Transportation, which for 
many years had been identified with all canal legislation, 
conducted a most aggressive and successful campaign for 
several months before the vote was had upon the referen- 
dum measure. Its efficient board of directors, acting- 
through its secretary, Mr. Gardner, prepared and distributed 
thousands of circulars and pamphlets throughout the State 
and finally conducted an organized campaign in the city of 
Greater New York. 

During the summer months Mr. Gustav H. Schwab had 
been chairman of the canal enlargement committee, and the 
strain was such that he had to relinquish that position and 
take a trip to Europe, and the Hon. Charles A. Schieren, 
ex-Mayor of Brooklyn, was appointed to fill the chairman- 
ship of the committee during October and November. 

The anxiety, however, among canal men throughout the 
State was such that the New York commercial bodies were 
appealed to and as a result the Canal Association of Greater 
New York held a banquet at Delmonico's in New York City 
on Tuesday, October 6, 1903, which was presided over by 
Henry B. Hebert of the New York Produce Exchange and 
was attended by canal advocates from various parts of the 
State and representatives of forty metropolitan journals. 
In the opening address, Mr. Hebert said: 


"We are glad of this occasion, for it furnishes an opportunity to 
present the canal proposition under the latest conditions. About a 
year ago, the canal proposition was a different proposition. Then 
it was a question brought to your attention as to the loss of trade 
and commerce to the State of New York and this great metropolis, 
through the workings of the differential in the freight rate. Those 
•conditions exist today, only to a greater extent. You will find, if 
you go into the city of Brooklyn, that they are dismantling the ware- 
houses along the water front, and that the assessable values in the 
city of Brooklyn have been greatly decreased on that account. Stores 
that at one time in the history of Brooklyn were teeming with the 
products brought from the ocean and also from the Great Lakes 
really exist no more. That is one of the evidences of the hostile 
traffic conditions which govern the commerce of this State. 

"The canal proposition of today, as I have already said, is an en- 
tirely different proposition from that presented last year, for the 
reason that it is now a question of the expenditure of an immense 
amount of money — one hundred and one millions of dollars. It also 
has its relation to the burdens of the people, which you call taxation, 
and then it has also that question which is uppermost at the present 
time, the support of the people themselves. And it is out of these 
three conditions, that the danger lies to this matter. 

"We have in the midst of this State an element working against 
the canal, the improvement of it, and we have an element that would 
still hold the control of its traffic conditions. And it is the danger 
of the hour that confronts us; no matter how well we may go to 
work about it or how energetic may be the campaign, that we cannot 
reach all the people of the State and tell them the needs of the canal 
improvement, in the interest of the people of the State. 

"To show that there is this condition existing today, I desire to 
read to you a letter, and it is only one of many that reaches the 
secretaries of the Canal Improvement State Committee— that come 
almost daily to the office of that committee ; and it shows, as I have 
already stated, this widespread ignorance regarding the canal ques- 
tion. This letter was sent to Governor Odell, simply because, doubt- 
less, the man had read the Governor's speech regarding the question 
of canal improvement; and so he writes Governor Odell, and from 
the Executive office it comes to New York: 

"'Hon. B. B. Odell, 

Governor of Neiv York. 
"'Dear Sir: Please send me any public document at hand that 
will help me to talk and vote understanding^ on the canal question. 
I favor the canal, but none of the local papers take that side of it. 


They all seem to be against it and unfair in that which they publish. 
Any literature published by those favoring the canal will be thank- 
fully received.' 

"This comes from Southport, Long Island. . . . Well now, we 
are getting that constantly, gentlemen, and we are doing the best we 
know how to answer these questions, sending them literature and 
letters and other matter, not only to encourage but to instruct. 
Therefore, you will see that there is danger at the present time re- 
garding this matter which even the most active of us find we are 
unable, owing to limitations, to meet the requirements of the case. 
Therefore, it is with delight that we meet distinguished members of 
the metropolitan press, in order that we may tell them of the ignor- 
ance that must be combatted. 

"As canal advocates, we are thoroughly posted, we are satisfied. 
We know that the canal is vital to every interest of the State. But 
there are thousands of gentlemen who would like to be told all about 
this matter, so that they might go to the polls on the 3rd of Novem- 
ber and vote intelligently, and the fear is that many may go to the 
polls and because of this ignorance vote "No" to a proposition for 
which they would otherwise vote "Yes." And we say to you, gentle- 
men of the press, that we think it is not only a question of com- 
merce and the well-being of the city and the State, but it is also a 
matter of patriotism because you will bear in mind that that which 
interferes with business takes away the ability of the taxpayer and 
householder and the head of the family to properly support his home. 

"If you will take the pains to inquire into the matter, you will 
find that this greatest State, this great State of New York, this Em- 
pire State of the Union, is being depopulated year by year. This is 
no fairy tale. There are twenty-two counties of this State whose 
population is not so large as ten years ago. There are twenty-seven 
counties of the State that, if you will deduct one or two towns, show 
a decrease in the population. You may take Monroe county for in- 
stance, that has for its large center of population the city of Roches- 
ter, and deduct the increase of population of the city of Rochester 
and Monroe county is 'shy' of its population of ten years ago. 

"Now I say to you, if you limit the home, and the homes, the 
character of the homes makes the commonwealth, and if you take 
away the ability of the State to give its citizens the power to earn 
a living, that State is doomed in the end. And so, gentlemen of the 
press, we tell you these things that you may take up this song and 
sing it so well that the people of this city, if nowhere else, where 
your papers are read with an avidity greater perhaps than any place 
on the face of the earth, may turn the tide, so that the State of New 


York may be perpetuated in the commercial supremacy and also as 
the Empire State of the Union." 

The other speakers on that occasion were General 
Francis V. Greene, George Clinton of Buffalo, Col. Thomas 
W. Symons, Abel E. Blackmar, Lewis Nixon, Edward A. 
Bond, E. F. King, Charles F. Bostwick and myself. Col. 
Symons in the course of his speech said: 

"Mr. Blackmar and myself last winter were asked to draw up a 
bill for the expenditure of the money. All our efforts — our best 
efforts — were bent upon producing a bill which would provide for 
the expenditure of this money; in the first place, to get a constitu- 
tional bill, a bill which provides for the raising of money, and then 
provides for the safeguarding of the expenditure of this money. 
. . . The obvious method of handling a big work like this would 
be to put it in the hands of a strong commission; but that is pro- 
hibited by the constitution. It must be in the hands of either the 
Superintendent of Public Works or the State Engineer. After very 
careful consideration we concluded that the proper way was to put 
it as much as possible in the hands of the State Engineer, and pro- 
vide him with the necessary assistance to do the work, though this 
bill provides that he shall have a deputy, who shall represent him 
wherever it is necessary, and all the minor assistants, and it further- 
more provides that the work shall be under the general supervision 
of a board of five expert engineers, to be appointed by the Governor, 
who will advise and consult with the State Engineer, who will keep 
constant supervision over the work and over all the minor engineers, 
and report to the Governor whenever they see fit, or whenever the 
Governor asks them to do so. In this way it is believed that if these 
men are properly selected the expenditure of this money will be so 
guarded that fraud, waste and dishonesty can be almost altogether 
eliminated from the work. 

"The three items, therefore, which I wish to endorse fully and 
which I would like to instil with my own confidence into you, are, 
that the route is properly selected; and that the estimates are ample, 
and I believe more than ample; and that the bill provides such safe- 
guards that the money will be honestly, efficiently and economically 

The effect of this banquet was perceptible upon the tone 
of editorials that began to appear in the metropolitan jour- 
nals and continued until the vote on the referendum measure 
in November. 


The New York Journal, the New York World, the 
Titties, Tribune, the Herald, and others devoted considerable 
space to the presentation of points made in favor of the 
referendum measure and in reply to the journals of the 
opposition. New York began to awaken to the importance 
of voting - favorably upon the measure. Theretofore it had; 
Ken so absorbed in its diverse and multifarious business 
affairs, that the larger matter of canal improvement had 
received little consideration notwithstanding the fact that 
New York city was to be the chief benefactor of the pro- 
posed improvement. After the Delmonico dinner, however, 
with daily leading editorials on the subject, the voters of 
New York were made acquainted with the referendum 
measure and the importance of canal improvement to that 
city, and began to show some interest in the project. All 
the leading commercial bodies in the city, and especially the 
Canal Improvement Committee, disseminated literature 
treating of various phases of the questions involved, and 
conducted a campaign of education, the like of which has 
never been known in this State. Not only were circulars 
and pamphlets distributed, but textbooks were prepared and 
distributed to speakers, newspaper writers and others, that 
they might have accurate information to present to the 
voters. A bureau was established in connection with the 
New York Produce Exchange for this purpose. 

While this was going on in New York and data were 
being prepared by Howard J. Smith of Buffalo for the rural 
press, an anti-canal bureau was established at Rochester 
which distributed a large amount of circulars, papers, 
pamphlets and speeches in opposition to the measure. 
Among such was a pamphlet entitled "Twenty good reasons 
why you should vote No/' compiled under the auspices of 
the Rochester Chamber of Commerce. These reasons em- 
bodied editorials from the Engineering Neivs, the New 
York Sun, the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Union 
and Advertiser, the Rochester Herald, the Rochester Post- 
Express, the Utica Press, the Albany Argus, the Syracuse 
Post-Standard, the Binghamton Leader, the Ithaca Journal, 
and several others in addition to reprints of speeches made 


by Senator Merton E. Lewis, ex-Assemblyman Brownell of 
Broome county, and articles by John A. C. Wright, E. B. 
Morris, Master of the New York State Grange; George 
Bullard, John M. Ives, Secretary of the Rochester Chamber 
of Commerce; George W. Rafter, D. H. Burrell of Little 
Falls, and others. 

In the course of his speech before the Rochester Chamber 
of Commerce, October 5, 1903, Senator Merton E. Lewis 
is reported to have said: 

"This appropriation of one hundred and one millions means 
doubling the tax of every taxpayer in the State of New York for 
the next fifty years. The amount for several years raised by direct 
taxation has been from seven to eight millions. The Erie canal cost 
last year for maintenance, operating expenses, ordinary- and extra- 
ordinaiy repairs, and interest on the canal debt one million, seven 
hundred and fifty thousand dollars in round numbers. I assume that 
the barge canal would cost double for these purposes. The interest 
at 3 per cent, would amount to $300,000 and the two million dollars 
for the sinking fund, allowing them fifty years instead of eighteen 
provided for in the bill, and we have from eight million to eighty- 
five hundred thousand per year. Allowing the claim that repairs 
will not double, you have at least seven million dollars annually 
above what has been raised by direct taxation before. It means a 
total of fourteen millions, doubling the tax every year for fifty 

Senator Thomas B. Dun, president of the Rochester 
Chamber of Commerce, is reported to have said : 

"It has looked to me from the start that the barge canal scheme 
was not a business proposition. That primarily is why I gave the 
matter attention. This view is borne out by our representatives in 
the Legislature and by many business men of Rochester with whom 
I have talked. The main idea with these men was that there would 
be no possible opposition to a deep waterway constructed by the 
Federal Government and that the whole country, especially ore- 
producing and grain-growing sections, were going to be largely 
benefited by cheaper transportation of their products and it is a fair 
proposition that they pay their share of building any canal." 

The New York Times characterized the anti-canal en- 
largement sentiment as "The Rochester Idea," because it 


ceemed to emanate largely from the opposing forces cen- 
tered in that city. 

Neither of the leading engineers of Rochester favored 
the barge canal improvement scheme in its inception. 
George W. Rafter had' expressed himself in favor of a 
ship canal by the way of Lake Ontario, and J. Y. McClin- 
tock had favored a deep waterway along the line of the 
Erie canal sufficient to develop eight hundred thousand 
horse-power, without reference to its use as a means of 
transportation. 1 Mr. McClintock, however, later became a 
convert to the proposition. 

Much of the opposition centered in and about Rochester 
was based on lay rather than on expert engineering opinion, 
and accordingly had little weight with voters, although 
Monroe and some of the adjacent interior counties cast a 
majority vote against the referendum measure. 

On October 15th a large canal meeting was held at the 
Academy Hall in the city of Dunkirk, which was presided 
over by Daniel F. Toomey, editor of the Dunkirk Herald, 
and addresses were made by Philip A. Laing of Buffalo, 
Benjamin S. Dean of Jamestown, and myself. Chautauqua 
was known to be an anti-canal county, but there were strong 
canal men in various parts of it and no one did more ener- 
getic service than Daniel F. Toomey in his Herald from 
week to week in supporting the referendum measure. On 
the occasion of that meeting Mr. Laing said: 

"The men who constructed the Erie canal took advantage of the 
New York State position which drew the great business of the 
Northwest. You will find as years go by, if this canal is not con- 
structed, that more and more grain will go through Canada. Rail- 
roads cannot get it or handle it. There is coming down from Lake 
Superior 70 per cent, of the iron ore of this country. It is being 
taken to Pittsburg, manufactured and transported over railroads at 
high figures. By constructing a canal iron can be manufactured and 
distributed to better advantage at the foot of Lake Erie than any 
place in the world." 

Mr. Dean said: 

"I do not believe that we want a ship canal for the purpose of 
increasing the commerce of Canada. My patriotism does not run in 

1. See Rafter's " Hydraulogy of the State of New York," p. 820. 


that direction. Contrary to the opinion among some people, public 
works do not always cost more than the appropriation, as instanced 
in the case of the harbor at Buffalo, which was made for 20 per cent, 
less than the appropriation." 

On October 16, 1903, an important canal meeting was 
held in the Common Council chamber in Cohoes, under 
the auspices of the Business Men's Association, addressed 
by David Van Auken, civil engineer, who gave a brief out- 
line touching the diversion of water and the effect upon all 
water power in that city, by reason of the proposed change 
in the canal route from Rex ford Flats to the Hudson river. 
The water privileges in Cohoes were large and used in the 
extensive factories, and there was a strong sentiment 
against any interference with their use, by local manufac- 
turers. The address of Mr. Van Auken' on that occasion 
cleared up much that was theretofore considered doubtful 
and did much to allay public sentiment which was consid- 
ered hostile to the referendum measure. An address was 
also made on that occasion by myself, in which I discussed 
the industrial growth of the cities and towns in that vicinity 
and the advantages to accrue to Cohoes and neighboring 
villages as a result of further canal improvement. The 
effect of that meeting is evidenced by the fact that the 
popular vote in Cohoes on the canal measure was approxi- 
mately three for it to one against it. 

During the barge canal campaign a joint debate occurred 
between John I. Piatt of Poughkeepsie in opposition to the 
referendum measure, and Willis H. Tennant of Mayville, in 
favor of it, at Prattsburg, the Three River Point, at the 
Chemung county fair, at Elmira, Utica, Cassadaga, Broc- 
ton, Binghamton, Dunkirk, and Syracuse. In the course of 
this joint debate, Mr. Piatt announced that in case "the 
people authorized the building of the barge canal it will be 
too small and out of date before they get it fairly com- 
pleted." To which Mr. Tennant answered : 

"I hope so. I hope the stream of western commerce flowing 
across our State to the seaboard and foreign markets and flowing 
across our State from our eastern manufacturing centers and ports 
of the world, will increase to such an extent that the great barge 


i tnal when completed as contemplated will be too small and need 
another enlargement. What a harvest New York State citizens will 
be reaping in the way of furnishing- work, supplies, etc., while it is 
passing through our State on a run of almost 500 miles each way 
between Buffalo and New York and between New York and Buffalo, 
not to mention the labor and supplies that must be had in connection 
with the local commerce shipped on the canal from one point to 
another within our State, which by millions and millions of tons has 
exceeded the through commerce. What magnificent cities we will 
then have along the course! Syracuse will soon be up to the one- 
half million mark, with Buffalo up in the million class, while smaller 
towns and villages will double in size again and again. Let the day 
speed its coming when the great barge canal becomes too small to 
handle the freight over it for transportation across our State from 
east to west." 

This series of debates created much interest in the rural 
localities and were interspersed with anecdote and repartee 
to the amusement of the rural audiences, who theretofore 
had manifested little interest in this important public im- 
provement. Mr. Piatt had made a careful study of transpor- i 
tation questions in this State, was resourceful in argument 
and a skilled debater. He presented altogether some of the 
most plausible arguments that were made by the opposition. 
Mr. Tennant was no less resourceful and well informed, and 
had the additional advantage of being in close touch with 
the temper and conditions of rural communities. He thor- 
oughly understood the prejudices that existed and what had 
produced them. He spoke convincingly in many localities 
and was able to remove to some extent these prejudices. At 
Prattsburg, it was said, that before the joint debate between 
Mr. Piatt and Mr. Tennant, there was not a single vote in 
the town favorable to the barge canal project, but at the 
election seventy votes were cast in favor of it. In other 
localities where he spoke, similar results were obtained. He 
was one of the popular speakers of that campaign. 

On October 23, 1903, I received a letter from George H. 
Kinter, formerly of Pennsylvania, which was published and 
in which he said : 

"I formerly lived in the State of Pennsylvania, in a town of one 
thousand inhabitants, in which business was flourishing at the time 


the Pennsylvania Railroad Company bought up the Pennsylvania 
canals several years ago. At that time the town had four well- 
appointed hotels, with ample stalling for hundreds of horses. In 
addition to its uptown stores, it had two large boatmen's groceries 
and supply houses. It had two boat yards, one dry dock, a sawmill 
and shipping trestle and large tannery employing many men, receiv- 
ing and shipping large quantities of bark and leather. It was a com- 
mon thing in those days for canal-boat cargoes of lumber, shingles, 
coal, ties, etc., to be received in that town by canal. There were 
twelve boat owners in the town who operated one or two boats each. 
A flourishing business was carried on in this town over the canal, 
which has now entirely ceased owing to its purchase by the railroad 
company, and the splendid waterway has gone out of commission. 
The history of this town, Dauphin, is repeated in many other parts 
of the State, and the once flourishing towns then in touch with water 
transportation have lost their commerce and their industries, and 
some considerable portion of their population. In place of the canal 
transportation there is a railway and freight station, but the railroad 
freight rates have so increased as to drive hundreds of small indus- 
tries out cf business. From experience, therefore, I strongly urge 
the improvement of the Erie canal by the State of New York as a 
recognized necessity, for the transportation of freight by water is 
always cheaper than transportation by rail. The present issue in- 
volves the commercial supremacy of the Empire State. If the far- 
mers and residents of canal towns fail to vote 'y es ' on the canal 
referendum measure, it will not be many years until these same 
towns and districts will suffer a fate similar to that of which I have 
been telling you in Pennsylvania which has befallen those towns." 

Upon invitation of the principal of the Masten Park high 
school, of Buffalo, I discussed the referendum measure 
before the 1,200 students of that institution on October 23, 
1903. The academic phases of the problems involved elicited 
interest in many educational institutions. The students 
eagerly sought literature on the subject and engaged in joint 
debates in localities where pro-canal advocates were as 
scarce as anti-slavery advocates in the South during the 
Civil War, and where the feeling was quite as intense. The 
open-mindedness of the student bodies throughout the State 
was one of the hopeful signs of the campaign. Wherever 
fair and dispassionate consideration was given to the sub- 
ject it won for itself, on its merits, friends by the scores. 


On October 24, 1903, at the request of the Canal En- 
largement Committee of the State of New York I was 
designated to make an address in behalf of canal improve- 
ment at the county fair in anti-canal Wayne county, John 
J. Piatt was designated by the anti-canal people to speak at 
the same time in opposition to the referendum measure, but 
lie and other anti-canal speakers did not keep the engage- 
ment. The Wayne County Review, in its issue of October 
1st, said: 

"The Review is confident that Mr. Hill's argument is unanswer- 
able, and commends perusal of it most heartily to the intelligent 
voters of this county. It commends the speech as emanating from a 
man who has successfully led the canal discussion in the Constitu- 
tional Convention of 1894, who was most influential in incorporating 
the canal enlargement plank of the Republican State platform last 
year, and who defeated the opposition to canal enlargement in the 
debate in the Senate last winter. It commends his speech also for 
giving a fair presentation of the facts, for sound and logical deduc- 
tion from the facts, and for the high and moral point of view in 
which the subject is treated. Every voter in the county, who wishes 
to inform himself on the great question of the hour, should give the 
argument careful consideration. That in fact is all that is asked by 
any friend of the canals." 

That meeting was attended by a large number of prom- 
inent men of Wayne county, including E. M. McGonigal, 
R. P. Ostrander, Albert Yeomans and others, and though 
the sentiment was strongly anti-canal, respectful and cour- 
teous attention was given to the speaker throughout his 
address. The vote of Wayne county on the referendum 
measure was 2,473 f° r it» an< ^ 7 fa) 1 against it. 

During the campaign it was the policy of the canal advo- 
cates to go into the anti-canal counties, and in every in- 
stance, where that was done, good results were obtained, 
although it was not expected or possible to secure a majority 
vote in these localities. 

On October 29, 1903, a mass meeting was held in Lock- 
port, attended by nearly all the prominent business men of 
that city; among them were Senator T. E. Ellsworth, 
ex-Assemblyman John T. Darrison, C. W. Hatch, C. G. Sut- 


liff, H. D. McNeil, F. P. Weaver and scores of others. Hon. 
John E. Pound was made chairman of the meeting, and in- 
troduced the first speaker of the evening, the Hon. Richard 
Crowley, who said: 

"People say that the day of canals has gone by, and that they 
must give way to other kinds of transportation. This is in a sense 
true of such things as require speedy movement, such as passengers 
and perishable freight, but the coarser commodities such as ore, coal 
and iron can be more cheaply shipped on the canal. . . . Canada 
with a smaller assessed valuation than the State of New York, is 
expending fifty millions on canals. . . . This State has done noth- 
ing to improve its canals since 1862, to make it possible for them 
to cope with the railroads. Lockport people know that at the close 
of navigation freight rates always go up, and vice versa!' 

Theodore S. Fassett reviewed the history of the canal 
enlargement proposition from its inception to the passage 
of the referendum measure, and in concluding his speech 

"I want to know what can stop the completion of an industrial 
city extending from Stony Point on Lake Erie along the Niagara 
river to Niagara Falls. Most of the men before me, if they live 
only the ordinary span of life, would be able to traverse the 28-mile 
length of that city, v/ithout at any time being out of sight and sound 
of humming industries. The forest of chimneys would not burden 
the air with a pall of black smoke, but emitting flashes of electricity 
would indicate a power being used below, cheaper and more power- 
ful than could be generated from any coal fuel. You may be in 
the greatest industrial city of the greatest industrial country on 
earth. You men then will want to be able to tell your children and 
your children's children that you were wise enough back in 1895 to 
help by your vote what gave the impulse to that great city, the big 
one-thousand ton barge canal." 

Mr. S. Wallace Dempsey and the writer also made 
speeches on that occasion. 

The Supreme Court of the United States rendered its 
decision in the case of Perry vs. Haines * on October 26, 
1903, holding that the Erie canal, which though lying 
wholly in the State of New York, forms a part of a con- 

1. See 191 U. S., 17-55. 


tinuous highway for interstate and foreign commerce, by 
connecting Lake Erie with the Hudson river, is a navigable 
water of the United States as distinguished from a navigable 
water of the State, and that boats engaged in navigating 
the Erie canal were within the contemplation of the mari- 
time law, over which the Federal courts exercise admiralty 
jurisdiction. The effect of that decision was to stimulate 
the anti-canal press to more vigorous attacks against the 
referendum measure, and to assert that "the Supreme Court 
of the United States had made a hard hit in favor of the 
taxpayer of the State of New York by a decision which 
declares that the Erie canal is an inter-state commerce route, 
and subject to Federal jurisdiction," and that "the vast 
range of inland waterways formerly supposed to be within 
the domain of State sovereignty were now held to be under 
the national control." The evident purpose of these leaders 
occasioned by the decision in the case of Perry vs. Haines, 
was to present still further grounds for an adverse vote on 
the referendum measure. Although the agitation over that 
decision did not defeat the measure, it had a deterrent effect 
in some localities upon voters who could not be fully advised 
as to its import within the short time elapsing between the 
rendition of the decision and the vote on the referendum 

In the following communication may be seen the use 
made of that decision in the city of New York, where pro- 
canal sentiment was strongest, and where it would do the 
greatest harm on account of the half million or more voters 
to be affected. 

On October 29, 1903, Andrew H. Green of New York 
City addressed a letter to the electorate of that municipality, 
advising a negative vote on the canal referendum, stating 
that "the total cost of the bond issue and interest thereon 
would approximate 155 millions of dollars, and that at least 
100 millions of that amount would fall upon the City of 
New York." He also said : 

"I have no hesitation in saying that we are not justified in as- 
suming this burden in view of the obligations already incurred in 
the pressing requirement for municipal improvement of more imme- 


diate value to our commercial and residential interests, and in view 
of the present situation respecting plans for other more capacious 
waterways from the lakes to tidewater. It is a cause for no little 
surprise that in view of the consequences which the affirmation of 
this proposition will entail upon the taxpayers of this city, the hand 
of our municipal government should have given it even the semblance 
of sanction." 

He concludes: 

"The remarkable decision of the United States Supreme Court 
given out yesterday, establishing admiralty jurisdiction over the Erie 
canal, is another formidable reason against the construction of this 
barge canal, the full effect of which is not yet fully realized. Shall 
we have the proposed ship canal with all its superior advantages, 
built by the General Government, or the barge canal at a cost of 
$150,000,000 to the State, and at a call for $100,000,000 from the tax- 
payers of this city?" 

Mr. Green was consistent in his opposition to canal im- 
provement from the time of the Constitutional Convention 
in 1894, wherein he spoke and voted against amending the 
Constitution, 1 down to the time of the meeting of the com- 
mittee in his office to formulate the Continental Waterways 
Association already referred to, and to his final appeal to 
the electorate of New York on October 29, 1903. 

On October 30, 1903, Dr. John D. Bonnar of Buffalo, 
who for many years had taken a deep interest in the matter 
of transportation by water, and attended many conventions 
and made addresses on the subject, through the columns of 
the New York Times, presented an argument in favor of a 
trans-State waterway, and in doing so took occasion to call 
particular attention to the importance of our foreign com- 
merce and its relation to the port of New York. Dr. Bon- 
nar spoke of canal development in Europe and freight rates 
on the Great Lakes, Atlantic Ocean and the proposed water- 
way intercommunicating between the same, and stated 
facts and gave figures in refutation of the anti-canal argu- 
ment set forth in a pamphlet issued by the Rochester 
Chamber of Commerce, which was conducting a bureau for 

1. See Vol. IV., Revised Records of the Constitutional Convention of 1894. 
PP. 963. 960. 


the dissemination of anti-canal literature through the State. 

In this article Dr. Bonnar said: 

"The proposed barge canal can do for 50 cents, inclusive of in- 
terest and cost of maintenance, what is now done by the railroads 
for three dollars, exclusive of terminal charges. As compared with 
the present canal rates on a twenty million tonnage, there will be an 
annual saving of ten million dollars, and even though there would 
be an outlay of seven millions for a sinking fund and operating ex- 
penses, there will still be a net saving of three million dollars an- 
nually to the State. The canal will reduce freight not alone to the 
cities along its route, but to every other contiguous section of the 
State and country tributary, north, south and west. A vote for the 
barge canal means a vote for prosperity, not alone to the cities, but 
to every village, hamlet and farm of the State. Manchester spent 
$75,000,000 to save four cents per bushel by rail. Our Government 
has spent nearly $60,000,000 to improve our lake channels and har- 
bors. Our duty to complete the modern route to the sea is plain, 
and needs only to be understood to be adopted with the greatest 

The rural counties were generally opposed to the referen- 
dum measure, but still there were in nearly every town men 
actively outspoken in favor of the adoption of the referen- 
dum measure. In Chautauqua county, these included such 
representative citizens as Justice John Woodward, Justice 
John S. Lambert, Justice Alfred Spring, Justice Warren B. 
Hooker, for several years chairman of the Rivers and Har- 
bors Committee of Congress,* Major J. Emil Johnson, 
Orsino E. Tones, Clare A. Pickard, Peter H. Hoyt, Hon. 
Obed Edson, Ralph A. Hall, Geary E. Ryckman, W. H. 
Bach, Charles B. Leach, Dr. T. D. Strong, Fred R. Green, 
Frank E. Sherman, James H. Flagler, Frank H. Mott, A. 
Frank Jenks, Conrad Thurston, George. Martyn, R. E. Post, 
George B. Smith, Henry Watson, John A. Love, Allen A. 
Stevens, Allen A. Gould, Henry J. Montgomery, A. A. Van j 

Dusen, Henry H. Cooper, Clarence B. Cipperly, Dr. F. D. 
Strong of W r estfield, Daniel F. Toomey, who published the 
leading canal paper in the county, the Dunkirk Herald, and 

In Cattaraugus county were Frank S. Oakes, president 
of Cattaraugus village; Lynn Ballard, San-ford F. Burger, 



W. B. Easton, Orlando White, Herbert C. Rich, Col. E. A. 
Nash, C. M. Rhoades, Jas. W. Watson, H. W. Hinman, 
Edson F. Beach, James S. Wliipple, E. O. Willson, C. H. 
Rich, Chas. J. Rich, H. P. Bishop, and A. L. Sherman. Of 
these men, Mr. Oakes was outspoken and active during the 
campaign for canal improvement. He wrote several letters 
to the Cattaraugus Republican, in which he reviewed in the 
main the arguments advanced in favor of the referendum 
measure and called particular attention to the advantages 
to accrue to the people of that county from the adoption of 
the referendum bill. Though living at some distance from 
the proposed waterway, he took a broad view of the import- 
ance of cheap transportation through the State, which would 
enable the industrial centers to maintain their growth and 
these in turn would become the absorbing centers of the 
agricultural products in counties not in direct touch with 
canal transportation. 

In a letter addressed to Elliott T. Burrows, president of 
the New York Produce Exchange, dated April 6, 1900, 
Mr. Oakes says that he had interviewed several of the lead- 
ing men in his township, Cattaraugus, and found them 
unanimous in favor of the improvement of the canals and 
the passage of the survey bill in question. Among those 
interviewed were H. C. Rich, president of the Bank of Cat- 
taraugus, S. F. Burger, supervisor of the town, and C. 
Moench & Sons, owners of a large tannery. In this letter 
Mr. Oakes said: 

"At this writing I do not know that any good has been accom- 
plished, but I have done all I could in the short time at my disposal 
and have demonstrated to my own satisfaction that after a suitable 
educational campaign the intelligent voters of the State of New York- 
will consent to any reasonable appropriation for canal improvement, 
especially on the line of a barge canal idea." 

Mr. Oakes attended several commerce and canal conven- 
tions and spoke and wrote extensively on the subject. He 
has been an aggressive canal advocate for many years and 
his work in Cattaraugus county, which was strongly anti- 
canal, was shown in the results where there were cast 2,239 
votes in favor of the measure to 7,391 votes against it. 


In Franklin county were such well-known canal advo- 
cates as A. S. Matthews of Fort Covington ; Hon. John I. 
Gilbert, John P. Kellas, F. S. Stumberge, O. S. Law- 
rence, H. T. Dudley, Frank S. Channell, and Fred G. Pad- 
dock, all of Malone; Paul Smith, at one time the owner of 
a packet on the Champlain canal ; Jackson Harding, 
Thomas W. Cantwell, Daniel' S. Coonley and Bruce C. Bort 
of Chateaugay. 

In Broome county, there were such prominent men as 
Senator George E. Green, who conducted a canal campaign 
very largely at his own expense and was one of the principal 
speakers at the canal meeting held at the court house in 
Binghamton on October 30, 1903, which was addressed by 
John D. Kernan of Utica and by myself. About fifty of the 
leading business firms of that city formed a pro-canal 
league, and united in an appeal to the voters of Broome 
county to support the canal referendum measure. 

The pro-canal committee of the city of Binghamton com- 
prised, among others, Messrs. E. P. McKinney, Henry G. 
Jackson, John Hull, jr., George Fowler, James K. Maus, 
C. I. Maguire, W. H. Smith, W. A. Turner, P. F. Costello, 
John L. Irving, E. H. Stow, C. E. Hait, I. W. Bean, Alonzo 
Roberson, Benjamin B. McFadden, G. S. North, A. S. 
Miner, G. R. Colvin, Wm. Casey, E. K. Hanky, Allan M. 
North, E. B. Cline, Frank Fisher, George E. Green, and I. 
I. Goldsmith. 

In that county the local leaders of both political parties 
were active in their opposition to the canal referendum 
measure, so that the vote of 2,401 in favor to 11,696 in 
opposition was all that could be expected from a county 
wherein nearly every paper opposed, and all railroad and 
political influences were exerted in opposition to the ap- 
proval of the measure. 

The credit for the canal vote in Broome county was 
chiefly due to the loyalty and efforts of Senator Green, in 
behalf of the measure. Fie had served with marked ability 
on the Roosevelt Commission that recommended the thou- 
sand-ton barge canal improvement. 


The strong anti-canal sentiment in the city of Rochester 
did not represent its entire citizenship. The labor organiza- 
tions of that city were quite generally in favor of the pro- 
posed improvement. Hon. George W. Aldrich, former 
Superintendent of Public Works, while not advocating canal 
enlargement, did not declare against it. When it was def- 
initely decided that a ship canal was not to be built from 
Lake Ontario to the Hudson, and the only proposition to be 
decided was whether or not the barge canal should be au- 
thorized, J. Y. McClintock, one of the principal engineer- 
of that city, assumed a friendly attitude toward the measure. 
Mayor Hiram H. Edgerton, John A. C. Wright, Peter 
Bohrer, Michael J. O'Brien, Willard A. Marakle, Hon. 
George L. Meade, Georg-e Dietrich, and others were con- 
verts to the proposition. Latterly, E. G. Miner, president, 
and other officials of the Rochester Chamber of Commerce, 
have extended a formal invitation to the New York State 
Waterways Association to hold its next meeting in the 
Chamber of Commerce building of that city. Some of its 
officials have expressed their acquiescence in the decision on 
the referendum measure and hereafter purpose to cooperate 
with, rather than oppose, advocates of canal and waterway 
improvement in this State. Few if any cities in the in- 
terior of the State are in greater need of cheap water trans- 
portation, and its people are beginning to realize this fact. 
With its extensive manufacturing and industrial interests, 
Rochester is quite as dependent on low freight rates as any 
oth-er city of the State, and at one period its leading citizens 
were strong pro-canal advocates. The return to this atti- 
tude evidences a change of public sentiment in that city 
which for a decade or more was classed as the strongest 
anti-canal community in the State. Sentiment in other 
localities is undergoing similar change and many anti-canal 
sections of the State are becoming pro-canal centers with 
the general revival of interest in water transportation. 

During the campaign Assemblyman Robert Lynn Cox of 
Buffalo, and former Assemblyman Edward R. O'Malley of 
Buffalo, were among the active canal speakers. Their fa- 
miliarity with the subject enabled them to make telling 


points in its favor, and their services were frequently called 
for during the latter part of the campaign. Both of these 
men had been identified in the Legislature with many of the 
questions involved in formulating and passing canal meas- 
ures and won for themselvc and the second assembly dis- 
trict of Erie county well deserved recognition among canal 
advocates throughout the State. 

In Genesee county Judge Safford E. North and others 
of Batavia were outspoken in their advocacy of the measure. 
The vote in that county was 1,446 for it and 3,680 against it. 
In Niagara county the vote was 8,514 for it and 4,014 
against it. The large and growing commerce of the upper 
Niagara river will be vastly augmented when the Federal 
ship canal, now nearing completion, enables large lake 
vessels to descend from Lake Erie to the Tonawandas. 
Niagara river is also a favorite for pleasure craft and motor 
boating as seen in the cases of the Buffalo Launch Club, 
the Motor Boat Club, the Frontier Boat Club and others 
using its waters. 

In Western New York a Canal Enlargement Association 
was formed and placed' under the direction of the Hon. 
George Clinton, Leonard Dodge, F. Howard Mason and 
Howard J. Smith. In the eastern end of the State the 
Canal Enlargement Association of Greater New York was 
under the direction of Gustav H. Schwab, who was suc- 
ceeded in October by Hon. Charles A. Schieren, Henry B. 
Hebert and George H. Raymond. 

These two organizations sent forth speakers and thou- 
sands of pamphlets to various parts of the State, and were 
largely instrumental in supplying the voters with the litera- 
ture necessary to enable them to vote intelligently on the 
referendum measure. These two associations were particu- 
larly successful in conducting an intelligent and vigorous 
campaign. It is very doubtful whether or not the results 
would have been as gratifying had there been less activity 
on the part of those identified with these associations. 

A large meeting was held under the auspices of the 
Chamber of Commerce of Troy in that city on October 27, 
1903, addressed by Hon. William J. Roche, who had taken 


deep interest in canal improvement in the Constitutional 
Convention debates of 1894, and on various occasions there- 
after. In the course of his address he said: 

"One objection is that we should not favor a 1,000-ton barge 
canal, hut should look for something larger; that we should have a 
ship canal, the expense to be borne by the United States Govern- 
ment. This project is very alluring. It appeals to the imagination. 
But we are asked to abandon an enterprise, which would contribute 
enormously to the wealth and growth of the State, for a remote pos- 
sibility. What is the prospect of securing a ship canal? We cannot 
get such a canal unless a majority in Congress vote in its favor. 
Some say it would cost $300,000,000, and none less than $200,000,000. 
Away back in the '50's an agitation was begun for a canal across the 
isthmus, and we have not got it yet. A bill was passed by the last 
Congress for a canal across the Isthmus of Panama. It was fought 
for years by powerful interests which influence representatives from 
every section of the country. If such difficulties lay in the way of 
the Panama canal, how much greater would they be in the way of 
a ship canal within the confines of New York State? The influence 
of New Orleans, Savannah, Newport News, Baltimore, Philadelphia, 
Boston and Portland would be arrayed against it. It is improbable 
that it would command any support to speak of, except from New 
York State and the immediate Northwest. That would be but a 
minority. We cannot have a ship canal without utilizing Lake On- 
tario, which is English as well as American waters. If war should 
arise, the ship canal would be useless. . . . 

"Some ask, Why should we help the people of Buffalo and New 
York by voting for the enlargement of the canal? Even if the mat- 
ter is placed upon so narrow a ground, I ask, is it not worth our 
while to help New York and Buffalo? Anything that helps these 
two great communities helps all the rest of the State. When the 
farmers ask that money be expended for good roads, is any voice 
raised in New York or Buffalo against it? The benefits of the barge 
canal will be felt by nearly all industries throughout the State. Our 
Republican friends, during the tariff agitation, appealed to the far- 
mers and it was represented to them that while they might not get 
direct protection, the manufacturing communities did receive such 
protection and it was claimed that by adding to the wealth and pros- 
perity of the cities there would be a better market for what was 
raised on the farms. That argument applies equally well to the bet- 
terment of the canals. . . . 


"FYofessor Raymond — of Troy Polytechnic Institute — says that 
j he State has no moral right to build a canal to compete with a 
railroad company to which a franchise has been given. The canal 
was there before the railroad. The State, in its sovereign capacity, 
can provide for the instrumentalities and needs of the public welfare 
and comfort. The people of the State have a right to build a com- 
peting bridge across the Hudson from the foot of Washington Street 
to Vvatervliet, though they have given the Congress Street Bridge 
Company a franchise to maintain a bridge within one-third of a 
mile and may tax the corporation in control of the latter to help pay 
for the former. . . . 

"The construction of the Erie canal made this the Empire State; 
its enlargement will materially aid us in preserving that proud title. 
The topography of our State invited the construction of this great 
waterway, and admits of its maintenance upon a scale of greater 
magnitude and usefulness. We owe it to ourselves, to our traditions 
as a State, to the growth and good name of this magnificent Com- 
monwealth, to place the great works which our forefathers with such 
courage and prophetic foresight devised, on a permanent basis, that 
they may continue to be, on an ever-increasing scale, powerful agents 
in promoting the happiness, the prosperity and the civilization of the 
people of this country." 

In an historical review such as this it is possible to re- 
count the efforts of but a few of the hundreds of citizens 
who had some part in the campaign that waged from May 
to November, 1903. 1 The popular conception of national 
political campaigns is such as to dwarf the proportions of a 
campaign of the economic importance of the canal cam- 
paign. The masses of the people have been educated to 
look upon political campaigns as the important events in 
our political history and they do not give that consideration 
to referendum measures submitted under the Constitution 
of this; State that their importance deserves. The latter 
involved the question of the expenditure of large sums of 
money in public improvements and, whether they be high- 
way or waterway improvements, is a matter of indifference 
to many who consider neither as paramount to political 

1. In the canal papers of Gustav H. Schwab. Henry B. Hebert. Frank S. Gard- 
ner and others, that follow in the succeeding volume of this series, appear important 
phases of the barge canal campaign and the names of other citizens identified with 
the project. 


issues. When public improvements, however, are consid- 
ered in the light of their importance in the development of 
a great State, whose commerce for a hundred years has 
been as great as that of New York and is still capable of 
expansion in volume and variety, provided the facilities 
keep pace with the demands for cheap transportation, it will 
be seen tiiat a popular campaign with such an economic 
proposition under consideration may be far more important 
to the people affected than a political campaign howsoever 

Those familiar with the canal campaign in this State in 
1903, and the consideration that had been given to the 
matter for nearly a quarter of a century, and who realized 
what it meant to the commerce of New York and the indus- 
trial development of the State, fully appreciated that upon 
the results of the pending election rested to some extent 
the future prosperity of the State. 

In Schoharie county there were such well-known citizens 
in support of the canal measure as Hon. Charles A. Weiting, 
State Commissioner of Agriculture ; William Riley, William 
Keating, Frank Mix, Henry Brandow and others. Mr. 
Weiting took a great deal of interest in the project. Meet- 
ings w r ere held at Cobleskill, for w T hich he was instrumental 
in securing speakers and a full discussion of the problems 
involved in that county, which was naturally strongly anti- 
canal, being an inland county, not touching the canals. The 
meetings were well attended and much interest shown, but 
the vote was only 836 for the measure to 5,476 against it. 

In Tompkins county the Ithaca Daily News, under the 
editorial supervision of D. C. Lee, dealt heavy blows upon 
the rural opposition of the interior counties. The Scriba 
Grange was pro-canal and was unsparingly denounced by 
its State organization for its independence of official domi- 
nation in that matter. Joint debates were held between 
Hon. John I. Piatt and George II. Raymond in Albany, 
Utica, Syracuse and at Conesus. Governor Odell delivered 
an address at the latter place and the canal debate took place 
in the presence of several thousand people. 

Among other active canal advocates were Dan forth E. 


Ainsworth of Oswego and Louis Bedell of Orange county, 
both efficient workers. 

Captain Charles Campbell of New York traveled through 
the State delivering an illustrated lecture on the benefits of 
water transportation, and the importance of adequate ter- 
minal facilities and the improved waterways to hold the 
commerce of the State. He engaged, with others, in the 
"cart-tail campaign" in New York City during the month 
of October, which attracted some attention on the streets 
and was — it may be presumed — productive of results favor- 
able to the large vote cast in that municipality. 

The New York Canal Enlargement Association sent into 
the field John D. D. Trenor and other speakers, and em- 
ployed Mr. John Stewart to edit the "Canal Primer," which 
was in general use during the campaign. In a communica- 
tion addressed to the editor of the Evening Post, by Mr. 
Trenor, under date of October 14, 1902, after reciting the 
history of the growth of the State as well as its commercial 
development, and after quoting from Governor Black and 
others and giving statistics to show the growth in popula- 
tion by decades as compared with the growth of Pennsyl- 
vania, and the loss in commerce, it is stated : 

"The elimination of the canal as a regulator of freight rates has 
made possible the establishment of the discriminating rates of the 
railroads, and they now practically dominate domestic and foreign 
traffic tributary to this State and city. This accounts in a large 
measure for the decline of commerce that is taking place, and is the 
reason why the commercial organizations of the State are cooperating 
for the rehabilitation of the canal system by means of which the 
Empire State may regain the power to regulate freight rates, and 
make it possible for it to receive the proper proportion of the increase 
of the nation's commerce, which is so justly its due.'' 

The annual reports of the Buffalo Chamber of Commerce 
and of the Board of Trade contain the names of many 
Buffalonians who have been actively identified with canal 
affairs for the last quarter of a century. Alfred Haines, 
Theodore S. Fassett, R. R. Hefford, George Clinton, Charles 
Hallam Keep, secretary of the Board of Trade, and F. 
Howard Mason, secretary of the Chamber of Commerce, 
had frequently represented those organizations before leg-is- 


lative and other bodies, and all but Mr. Keep — who became 
assistant to the Secretary of the Treasury of the United 
States—were among the active canal improvement ad- 

Several Buffalonians have been officially identified with 
the administration of canal affairs in this State. Among 
them were Grover Cleveland, as governor from 1880 to 
1883 ; William Dorsheimer and William F. Sheehan, as 
lieutenant-governors ; Millard Fillmore, Asher P. Nichols, 
Nelson K. Hopkins, James A. Roberts, William J. Morgan, 
and Erastus C. Knight as State comptrollers; and Benja- 
min Welch, Jr., Elbridge G, Spaulding, Isaac V. Vander- 
pool, Philip Dorsheimer, John G. Wickser and John G. 
Wallenmeir as State treasurers ; George P. Parker, Charles 
F. Tabor, John Cunneen, William S. Jackson and Edward 
R. O'Malley as attorney generals. 

In addition to these there were Daniel H. McMillan, 
Henry W. Hill, Tracy C. Becker, John Coleman, George A. 
Davis, Jonathan W. Carter, Philip W. Springweilcr, 
William Turner, James S. Porter, Harvey W. Putnam and 
Thomas A. Sullivan, members of the Constitutional Con- 
vention from Erie county in 1894, who were largely instru- 
mental in securing the passage of the constitutional amend- 
ment known as section ten of article seven, expressly author- 
izing canal improvement in such manner as the Legislature 
might provide. 

William A. Rogers, Spencer Kellogg, Edward Smith, 
Edward Delahunt, John S. Heath, Orville A. Crandall, Hon. 
William Richardson, John O'Brian (Assemblyman in 1872), 
Edwin T. Evans, John J. M'cWilliams, Charles W. Good- 
year, and Representatives Charles Daniels, Rowland B. 
Mahany, Daniel N. Lockwood, William H. Ryan and Col. 
D. S. Alexander — acting chairman of the Rivers and Har- 
bors committee, who has secured large appropriations for 
improvements in Black Rock harbor and Buffalo river, — 
and many other Buffalonians have from time to time shown 
their interest in commercial affairs, and have contributed to 
the strong pro-canal sentiment in Buffalo, which for a quar- 
ter of a century has largely shaped the canal policy of the 


State. Some of these have already been mentioned in this 
work. It is a well-known fact that the vote in Erie county 
on the referendum measure was 39,451 votes for it, to 8,355 
votes against it, notwithstanding the large railroad interests 
centering in Buffalo, opposed to the measure when it was 
submitted to the people. This large preponderating vote 
clearly shows the strong canal sentiment in this city. 

In each of the counties of Schuyler, Yates, Hamilton and 
Tioga there were cast less than 500 votes in favor of the 
measure, but in most of the non-canal counties of the State 
meetings were held at which speakers appeared in advocacy 
of the measure, and in some instances to engage in joint 
debate with those opposed to it. In several of these the pro- 
canal vote appears but a small proportion of the entire vote 
cast, but when it is remembered that the sentiment in the 
rural counties was strongly anti-canal in character, it may 
be seen that the results were quite as assuring as could 
reasonably be expected. 

Albany, Cayuga, Erie, Kings, New York, Queens, Niag- 
ara, Richmond, Rockland, Suffolk, Ulster and Westchester 
counties cast large majority votes in favor of the measure, 
and all the other counties a majority against it. The aggre- 
gate affirmative vote was 673,010, and the negative vote was 
427,693, \Vhich gave a clear majority of 245,323 votes for 
the measure. It required no end of oral and printed state- 
ments to reach the 1,258,777 voters, the aggregate number 
of those who voted for or against it, or who failed to vote 
by reason of defective ballots. The referendum measure 
received 43,622 votes over and above one-half of all votes 
cast, or that might have been cast for or against the propo- 
sition at that election. The preparation and dissemination 
of canal literature, and the traveling and other expenses of 
speakers, all together involved a large expenditure of 
money, which was raised by voluntary contribution from 
private individuals. All this was additional to the time and 
effort involved in the preparation and presentation of 
speeches, the dissemination of canal literature, and the or- 
ganization and management of the campaign during the six 
months preceding the vote on the referendum measure. 


XXVII. Men and Measures — Progress and Prospects. 

The well-considered policy formulated at the time of the 
drafting of the referendum measure was fully carried out, 
and a trend of favoring events largely dominated by that 
policy helped to bring about the ultimate success achieved. 
Many different interests for a long time cooperated to 
accomplish this result. 

Engineers of repute and long service had been identified 
with the waterways of this State from the time of the im- 
provement of 1835 down to that of the barge canal. Mr. 
George E. Gray entered the service in 1839, nearly 70 years 
ago; Air. David E. Whit ford had been in the service for a 
period of 52 years, with the exception of four years, and 
is still in the service ; Mr. W. H. H. Gear had been in the 
service of the State at different times for 50 years ; Messrs. 
Maurice S. Kimball and John Bisgood had been in the ser- 
vice of the State nearly 40 years; Mr. L. L. Nicholls, 30 
years; Messrs. O. W. Child's, O. W. Storey, Daniel C. 
Jenne, Van R. Richmond, Bruce J. Kimball and J. Nelson 
Tubbs, 25 years; Messrs. Alfred Barrett, J. Piatt Goodsell, 
Thomas Goodsell, Daniel Richmond, Dennison Richmond, 
George Arnold! and Thomas Evershed, for a period of 20 
years, and Mr. Holmes Hutchinson, William J. McAlpine, 
O. A. Bogardus, Wm. B. Taylor, Howard Soule, Walter W. 
Jerome, Charles Truesdell, Wm. B. Cooper, Byron Holley, 
Charles D. Burns, and John R. Kaley, upwards of 15 

In addition to those mentioned were such well-known 
engineers as Benjamin Wright, James Geddes, Canvass 
White, John B. Jarvis, Nathan S. Roberts and David S. 
Bates, who were the chief engineers who built the original 
Erie canal. Next came a group of engineers who wrought 
out the several enlargements and improvement down to the 
present project for the barge canal. Among these already 
mentioned were Messrs. Bisgood, Cooper, Evershed, Gear, 
Goodsell, Jenne, Jerome, Kaley, Kimball, McAlpine, 
Nicholls, Richmond, Soule, Storey, Taylor, Tubbs and 


Whit ford. To this list may be added Squire Whipple, John 
P. Fay, Byron M. Hanks, Silas Seymour, Sylvanus H. 
Sweet and John Bogart. 

For several years before the scheme for a barge canal 
had been perfected, the subject of better conditions was 
being agitated and various improvements were undertaken 
more or less successfully. Among those who were instru- 
mental in bringing about these improvements was Horatio 
Seymour, jr., who made a careful study of transportation 
problems and advocated a deepening of the canals one foot, 
in his report of 1878, which was thereafter known as the 
"Seymour plan." Many years after the deepening was 
actually begun under the modification' suggested by Camp- 
bell W. Adams, known as the "Seymour-Adams plan." 

We have already seen the services rendered by Martin 
Schenck in the plan of canal development in this State, as 
well as the surveys made under Edward A. Bond in 1900. 
Mr. Bond's successor was Henry A. Van Alstyne, who rose 
from a subordinate position to the head of the department 
and was entrusted as State Engineer and Surveyor with 
formulating the first working plans for the barge canal. 
He was succeeded by Frederick Skene, who had charge of 
the work from 1907 to 1909, and who in turn was suc- 
ceeded by Frank M. Williams. 

The division engineers appointed by the State Engineer 
and Surveyor, Frank M. Williams, were the following: On 
the eastern division, George T. Williams; on the middle 
division, Guy Moulton ; on the western division, Thomas 
W. Barrally ; and the deputy in charge of barge canal con- 
struction is William B. Landreth, who was employed in 
making the survey for the barge canal, and has since been 
associated with the Advisory Board of Consulting En- 
gineers. Noble E. Whitford has long been identified with 
the department, and is the author of the valuable "History 
of the New York Canals," issued as part of the official 
report of the State Engineer for 1905. The bureau of canal 
affairs in the State Comptroller's office for several years has 
been under the supervision of William G. Shaible and 
Thomas W. Can tw ell. 


On December 21, 1903, a canal dinner was tendered by 
the Chamber of Commerce of Buffalo to Governor Odell 
and other gentlemen who had taken a prominent part in the 
canal campaign. President Leonard Dodge of the Chamber 
of Commerce, congratulated the gentlemen present on the 
successful issue of the canal campaign, and called upon YV. 
Caryl Ely to preside. After an allusion to some of the 
phases of canal improvement, Mr. Ely introduced Governor 
Odell, who made a long, interesting speech on the utility 
and advantages of cheap water transportation as conducive 
to commercial expansion. He was followed by Attorney 
General John Cunneen, who gave a history of the campaign 
for canal improvement in this State, paying merited tribute 
to Alfred Haines, who had been actively engaged in the 
canal campaign, but had shortly before died. 1 Messrs. Ogden 
P. Letchworth, John G. Milburn and Senator Thomas F. 
Grady of New York were also among the speakers on that 
occasion. Senator Grady was in his usual felicitous mood, 
and the recipient of many congratulations for his active ana 
efficient part in the canal campaign in and out of the Senate. 
This was one of the largest canal banquets ever held in 
Buffalo, and was attended by many of its leading citizens. 
The impression given to those in attendance, including the 
Governor and other distinguished guests, was that the 
citizens of Buffalo looked forward to definite action in the 
line of canal enlargement on the part of those charged with 
the responsibility of issuing the bonds and proceeding with 
the work, now that all preliminary problems had been 
favorably solved. 

Shortly after the organization of the Canal Board of 
1904, State Comptroller Otto Kelsey presented the matter 
of a bond issue in conformity with the provisions of chapter 
147 of the laws of 1903, and was directed to proceed with 
the preparation of the two forms of bonds authorized by 
that statute. In due time they were prepared; and subse- 
quently, in place of the eighteen-year bonds, there were 
authorized and issued three per cent, canal bonds, running 

1. Died Dec. 17, 1903. 


for a period of fifty years, which have been disposed of to 
the amount of several millions of dollars. Mr. Kelsey, who 
thoroughly understood the difficulty of disposing of three 
per cent. State canal bonds under the market conditions 
existing in 1907, advised the enactment of a bill which I 
introduced to facilitate the sale of State bonds. As State 
Comptroller he had supervision of both the eighteen and 
fifty-year original bond issue. 

The general interest manifested in the subject of ade- 
quate canal improvement in the State is shown by the variety 
of organizations and interests which from time to time 
cooperated in the consideration of plans proposed by 
engineers and others identified with the movement. The 
commercial centers of the State were quite generally pro- 
canal, while most of the rural counties were anti-canal. It 
is doubtful whether or not any great public question was 
ever more widely discussed and more carefully considered 
by the great mass of voters than the canal referendum issue 
of 1903. As has been stated, more than a million votes 
were cast on the proposition, of which 673,010 were in 
approval, and 427,698 were against it, thus giving it a fair 
majority of upwards of 245,000 votes. That was the 
largest popular majority ever given to any referendum 
measure submitted to the people in this State. It was 
gratifying to the great commercial centers, as well as to the 
thousands of broad-minded citizens who had had any part 
in the campaign contributing to that result. The measure 
as passed, in addition to the features already mentioned, 
provided that the Governor may employ, at a compensation 
to be fixed by him, five expert civil engineers to act as an 
advisory board of consulting engineers, whose duty it shall 
be to advise the State Engineer and Superintendent of 
Public Works, and follow the progress of the work, and 
from time to time report thereon to the Governor, the State 
Engineer and the Superintendent of Public Works, as they 
may require, or as the board may deem proper and advis- 
able. That provision was inserted in the bill by reason of 
the provisions of the State Constitution requiring all public 
works to be placed under the supervision of the State Super- 


intendent of Public Works, and the State Engineer ami 
Surveyor prohibited the creation of a commission to haw- 
charge of such matters. Therefore to supply the expert 
engineering skill necessary for the proper conduct of a 
work of that magnitude, it was thought wise by the frame:- 
of the referendum measure to incorporate a proviso!! 
therein for the creation of a board of five expert engineers 
to be appointed by the Governor, and to serve during the 
progress of the work. 

The Advisory Board of Consulting Engineers first ap- 
pointed were Hon. Edward A. Bond, a member of the 
American Society of Civil Engineers, who was first em- 
ployed in engineering in the construction of the Delaware, 
Lackawanna & Western Railroad, afterward of the Utica 
& Black River Railroad, and later general superintendent 
of the Carthage & Adirondack Railroad; and who was 
State Engineer and Surveyor of New York from 1900 to 
1904, when he resigned to accept appointment as a member 
of the Advisory Board of Consulting Engineers. He was 
in charge of the survey for the barge canal in 1900. 

The second member of the Advisory Board was Alfred 
Brooks Ery, a graduate in engineering at Columbia Uni- 
versity, who was employed in the United States Navy as 
acting chief engineer in Cuban waters during the Spanish- 
American war, a member of the American Society of 
Mechanical Engineers, who had had extensive experience 
in engineering on various governmental and State projects. 

The third member was Major Thomas W. Symons of 
the Corps of Engineers of the United States Army, a 
graduate of West Point Military Academy, and one of the 
engineers employed by the United States Deep Waterways 
Commission in making its survey across the State of New 
York, from 1897 to 1900, and thereafter employed by 
Edward A. Bond in making the survey for the barge canal. 

The fourth member was William A. Brackenridge, em- 
ployed in the construction of the elevated railway system of 
New York City and in the construction of the western 
division of the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad, 
and also in the construction of the Brooklyn elevated rail- 


way and the Long Island Railroad. He traveled extensively 
in Europe studying engineering problems in England and 
on the Continent. Pie was employed from 1891 to 1904 by 
the Niagara Falls Power Company in the construction of 
the power plants at Niagara Falls. 

The fifth member was Elmer Lawrence Corthell, a 
graduate of Brown University, and chief engineer in the 
construction of the bridges over the Mississippi river, and 
also in the construction of the Mississippi jetties. He was 
chairman of the commission of the International Engineer- 
ing Congress in Chicago in 1893, a delegate to the Interna- 
tional Navigation Congress at Brussels in 1898, and to the 
International Navigation Congress held at Dusseldorf in 
1902. He was the author of the articles on "Jetties, Levees, 
Ship Canals and Ship Railways" in Johnson's Encyclopedia 

The first meeting of the board was held at Albany on 
March 8, 1904. 

Upon the resignation of Mr. Corthell in 1907, Mortimer 
G. Barnes was appointed to fill the vacancy. A graduate of 
the University of Michigan in engineering, he was employed 
in the construction of the Poe Lock and power house at 
Saulte Ste. Marie, and was chief engineer of the Lake 
Superior Power Company. In 1897 he was on the prelim- 
inary survey for the Birmingham (Ala.) canal, and was the 
hydraulic engineer of the Chandler Dunbar Power Com- 
pany. He was one of the engineers engaged in the United 
States Deep Waterway survey in Northern New York. He 
was also employed in the construction of the Illinois and 
Mississippi canal in 1905, and was United States assistant 
engineer in charge of the designing and construction of the 
lock in the Mississippi river at Moline, and also one of the 
assistants in designing the locks, dams and regulating works 
for the Panama canal. 

All of these men are distinguished engineers, some of 
whom had an active part in the various surveys theretofore 
made in this State. This was regarded at the time, and has 
since proved one of the most salutary provisions of the 
referendum measure, in that it affords the people an oppor- 
tunity to obtain at first hand expert information of a high 


character as to the progress of the work under the larg* 
contracts that are being let from time to time, and the ad- 
visability of the letting of contracts on bids received. The 
Advisory Board of Consulting Engineers holds regular 
sessions and keeps a record of its proceedings, which arc- 
made public documents and contain much information as to 
the engineering and other momentous questions arising as 
to dam and lock construction, and other problems involved 
in the prosecution of the work. 

The referendum measure has been modified from time to 
time ; and finally, by an amendment proposed by myself, so 
that all maps, plans, specifications, and detail estimates, and 
all alterations and changes in such maps, plans, specifica- 
tions and detail estimates are required to be submitted by 
the State Engineer to the Advisory Board of Consulting 
Engineers before being presented to the Canal Board for 
its action, and the Advisory Board of Consulting Engineers 
is required to report its opinion thereon within thirty days 
after it shall have received the same. The Canal Board 
shall not act upon any such maps, plans, specifications or 
estimates, or on any alterations or changes thereon until the 
same have been so submitted to the Advisory Board of Con- 
sulting Engineers and reported upon by it, or until the time 
for such board to report shall have expired. 1 

The increased powers conferred upon the Advisory 
Board of Consulting Engineers by the last amendment, gave 
that board a standing and efficiency which it did not possess 
under the original canal act. By virtue of the amendment, 
it is mandatory upon the State Engineer to submit all pre- 
liminary work of the department to the scrutiny and revision 
of these expert engineers, familiar with all phases of the 
work involved in barge canal construction. The State has 
been particularly fortunate in securing the services of these 
gentlemen. Their official reports show something of the 
scope and importance of the duties devolving upon them and 
the magnitude of the questions to be decided. 1 

The functions of the Advisory Board of Consulting 
Engineers, under the amendatory act, are co-extensive with 

i. Chap. 394. N. Y. Laws of 1507. 


the scope of barge canal construction. This board has on 
many occasions proved itself to be a most valuable adjunct 
to the State Departments charged with the duty of carrying 
forward barge canal construction. 

As the work progressed, the Advisory Board recom- 
mended a modification of the dimensions of the locks con- 
templated by the original act, so that they would be 45 feet 
in width instead of 28 feet, and admit of the passage of 
vessels carrying fifteen hundred tons instead of one thou- 
sand tons. This plan was adopted, and the locks on the 
three barge canals are 328 feet long, 45 feet in width, with 
II feet of water over the mitre-sills. In the course of con- 
struction some of the locks are of still larger dimensions 
and are built according to the most modern methods utilized 
in this or any other country in canal construction. The 
great lock at Oswego is to be operated by water power 
siphoned into a chamber. 

Some of the difficult engineering questions encountered 
are those in the canalization of the Mohawk from Rexford 
Flats to Little Falls, a distance of 58 miles, involving the 
construction of retaining reservoirs to hold back the waters, 
and dams and locks strong enough to withstand the torren- 
tial conditions of that river in spring time when the whole 
Mohawk valley is flooded. 

A large amount of water will be needed for operating 
the barge canal. The locality which requires the greatest 
attention is the summit level near Rome. In addition to the 
present supply to the existing Rome summit level, including 
the series of reservoirs, lakes and streams to the south, in 
Oneida, Madison and Onondaga counties, which will be 
brought to the new canal by retaining the present canal as 
a feeder, and also the lakes in the Adirondack region, there 
will be built two large reservoirs, one upon the Mohawk 
river at Delta, about five miles north of Rome, and the 
other on West Canada creek at Hinckley. The capacity of 
the Delta reservoir will be 2,700,000,000 cubic feet and the 
watershed will contain 137 square miles. At Hinckley the 
drainage basin is 372 square miles and the capacity of the 
reservoir 3,400,000,000 cubic feet. The water of West 


Canada creek reaches the line of the canal at Herkimer, but 
inasmuch as a supply will be needed for the summit level to 
the west of this point, a channel will be constructed to divert 
the flow into Nine Mile creek. 

There will be a continuous drop in the canal from Lake 
Erie to Three River Point and for this portion of the canal 
no special provision for water-supply other than Lake Erie 
will have to be made. 

The referendum measure has been amended in several 
respects since its passage and some of the amendatory acts 
are the following : 

In 1906 I introduced in the Senate a bill to amend the 
bonding features of the referendum measure to conform to 
the provisions of section 4 of article 7 of the Constitution, 
authorizing a fifty year bond issue in lieu of an eighteen 
year bond issue as prescribed by that section of the Consti- 
tution before it was amended and as it existed at the time of 
the enactment of chapter 147 of the laws of 1903. After 
some discussion this Senate bill, which was prepared in con- 
ference with Hon. Abel E. Blackmar and Hon. George 
Clinton, passed the Legislature and was approved by Gov- 
ernor Higgins, and became chapter 302 of the laws of 1906. 

On February 26, 1906, the Ithac3 Business Men's Asso- 
ciation gave a banquet in Masonic Hall at Ithaca, which was 
attended by all the business men of the town, and many of 
the professors of Cornell University, and mayors and prom- 
inent citizens from surrounding towns, in all numbering 248, 
the largest meeting of the kind ever held under the auspices 
of that Association. It was presided over by Professor T. 
F. Crane, Dean of Cornell University. Addresses were 
made by Justice Alfred Spring, on "Present Problems". 
by the Rev. W. Herbert Hutchinson, on the "Ethics of 
Propriety" ; on "Municipal Government" by former Mayor 
Thomas M. Osborne; and by David M. Dean, a prominent 
member of the Tompkins county bar, on "Ithaca." One of 
the purposes of the banquet was to consider the feasibility 
of constructing a waterway from the barge canal to Cayuga 
and Seneca lakes, and I was invited to speak on that sub- 
ject. In the course of my remarks I said: 


"New York's internal waterways have contributed much to the 
advancement of commerce in this State. New York's history has 
hem unparalleled in commerce, manufactures, and in the develop- 
ment of the liberal arts. The founders of its commercial policy were 
far-seeing, broad-gauged and liberal-minded statesmen. They be- 
lieved that facility and economy in transporting agricultural, min- 
eral and manufactured products were of prime importance in the de- 
velopment of a State. They realized that a saving in freight rates 
was a gain both to the producer and consumer, and made it possible 
for industries to thrive and flourish where these conditions existed." 

I called attention to the industries in the vicinity of 
Ithaca which would be benefited by the construction of a 
canal from Cayuga lake, connecting with the barge canal, 
and said that "the saving in freights to the salt industries 
in and about Cayuga lake would warrant the expenditure 
of the money necessary to construct such intercepting water- 
way." I also said that the interior counties were right- 
fully entitled to the same benefits as the counties along the 
line of the Erie canal and to such improvement as would 
enable them to intercommunicate therewith, and secure the 
advantages of cheap water transportation for their products 
and supplies. Before the conclusion of the banquet, upon 
motion of Jared T. Newman, the following resolution was 
adopted : 

"Resolved, By the 248 business men assembled at the anmial 
banquet of the Business Men's Association of the city of Ithaca, 
that we approve of a bill introduced by Senator Henry W. Hill, for 
the furtherance of the construction of the barge canal, and request 
our representatives in the Legislature to give it their hearty support." 

The resolution was unanimously adopted. From that 
time on the Cayuga lake counties generally and in some 
instances enthusiastically endorsed and supported all canal 
measures in the Legislature. As a result of the friendly 
attitude of the people in those counties toward canal im- 
provement a conference was held at the office of the Super- 
intendent of Public Works in Albany, January 6, 1909, 
attended by canal advocates from various parts of the State, 
to consider the advisability of the introduction of a referen- 
dum measure authorizing a bond issue for the construction 


of a barge canal from the main line of the Erie barge can:.! 
to the outlets of Cayuga and Seneca lakes. That measure 
is now * being" prepared and will undoubtedly pass the Legis- 
lature at the present session. We have heretofore seen the 
extent of the commerce over the original Cayuga ami 
Seneca canals, and the reconstruction of a great waterway 
between the main line of the Erie barge canal and those 
lakes will undoubtedly restore much of the commerce 
naturally tributary thereto, which for the last quarter of a 
century has been largely diverted to the railroads. The. 
banquet of the Ithaca Business Men's Association was op- 
portune and was the beginning of a change of sentiment in 
Tompkins county, which cast 5,498 votes against the refer- 
endum measure to 720 in favor of it in 1903. 

The Superintendent of Public Works in his official 
report for 1909 recommended the improvement of the 
outlet of Cayuga and Seneca lakes, by the construction of 
a waterway of the barge canal capacity, to connect these 
lakes with the new Erie barge canal, at an estimated expense 
of $5,750,ooo. 2 

At each session of the Legislature, since the passage of 
the referendum measure, various bills have been introduced ; 
some for the avowed purpose of checking the progress of 
the work, and others for the declared purpose of repealing 
the referendum measure, which is possible under the Con- 
stitution. These measures, however, have met with the 
opposition of the commercial centers, which has been such 
hitherto as to prevent their passage through both branches 
of the Legislature. There has been some change in senti- 
ment, however, in the State since the approval of the refer- 
endum measure in 1903, and such counties as some of those 
bordering on Seneca and Cayuga lakes, as well as some of 
those in touch with the Black River canal, are now pro-canal 
counties. The sentiment is also changing in some of the 
counties along the Hudson river and in central New York; 
and gradually the people are coming to realize that rail- 
roads, however well equipped, are inadequate to transport 

1. Feb., igog. 

2. See Report of Supt. of Public Works for igog, pp. 29, 30. 


the vast tonnage produced in and transported through this 
State, and that waterways in the near future will be an ab- 
solute necessity as a means of transportation in the com- 
mercial and industrial development of the State. The 
necessity for increased transportation facilities is generally 
recognized by those familiar with transportation matters, 
and also that railroads have nearly reached their maximum 
capacity as freight distributors. The action of New York 
on the referendum measure was the beginning of renewed 
interest in transportation by water in this country. "As the 
Erie canal of old blazed the way for inland waterways in 
America, inspiring a veritable mania for canal building 
throughout the country, so again, if present indications show 
the trend of public sentiment, the new Erie seems destined 
to lead in another popular wave of zeal for modern water- 
way channels.'' * 

In 1907 I introduced a bill which resulted in the enact- 
ment of chapter 550 of the laws of 1907. That bill was 
prepared owing to the stringency in the money market ren- 
dering it impossible to dispose of three per cent, canal 
bonds. The provisions of that bill afFected insurance com- 
panies, trust companies and savings banks by providing a 
rebate of one per cent, on the franchise tax paid by such 
institutions to the State, to the extent of their holdings of 
New York three per cent, bonds, but not exceeding, how- 
ever, the amount of tax paid by them in a year to the State. 
This was considered a wise financial measure, to induce 
those institutions to purchase New York three per cent, 
canal bonds, which were at that time unmarketable, inas- 
much as the money market demanded a much higher rate 
of interest. The measure was strongly opposed in the 
Senate and passed that body after a long fight, and it was 
also strenuously opposed in the Assembly by Assemblyman 
James T. Rodgers of Broome county, and others, but ably 
supported by Assemblymen John Lord O'Brian, Orson J. 
Weimert and John K. Patten, chairman of the Assembly 
Canal committee, all from Erie county, and active canal 
advocates ; and by Assemblymen Edward Schoeneck of 

1. See N. Y. Barge Canal Bulletin, Dec, 1908. p. 354. 


Syracuse, and Willoughby B. Dobbs of New York City, 

who made a forceful speech in defense of the measure. It 
passed the Assembly and was approved by Governor 
Hughes. Since its approval the State (to February I, 1909) 
has disposed of its three per cent, canal bonds to the extent 
of thirteen millions of dollars. 

The members of the legislative committees for 1909 to 
which amendatory or other canal bills relating to barge 
canal construction are referred, are the following: In the 
Senate, Victor M. Allen, Seth G. Heacock, Henry W. Hill, 
Eugene M. Travis, J. Mayhew Wainwright, Charles J. 
White, James P. Mackenzie, Samuel J. Ramsperger, and 
Stephen J. Stilwell; and in the Assembly, William W. 
Come, T. Romeyn Staley, Clarence MacGregor, John J. 
Mclneraey, Lindon Bates, jr., Frank L. Smith, Alexander 
C. Martin, Charles L. Fellows, Albert S. Callan, Edward P. 
Costello, Owen Bohan, John W. Manley, and Thomas A. 

Another act was passed which became chapter 710 of the 
laws of 1907, and in 1908 still another act was passed and 
became chapter 508 of the laws of 1908, amending section 
3 of the original canal 1 referendum measure. 

Other amendatory acts have been passed at various 
times, such as chapter 365, laws of 1906; chapter 494 of 
the laws of 1907; chapter 195, laws of 1908, and chapter 
550, laws of 1907, which together with the original act and 
the amended constitutional provisions constitute a code of 
laws authorizing and governing barge canal construction in 
this State. 

Among constitutional amendments submitted to the 
people by the convention of 1894 was that known as the 
forestry amendment, proposed by the Hon. David McClure 
of New York City, which became section 7 of article 7 of 
the Constitution, and provides that "the lands of the State. 
now owned or hereafter acquired constituting the Forest 
Preserve as now fixed by law, shall be forever kept as wild 
forest lands. They shall not be leased, sold or exchanged 
or be taken by any corporation, public or private, nor shall 
the timber thereon be removed or destroyed." 


The Court of Appeals, in the case of the People versus 
the Adirondack Railroad Co., 1 state that "the creation of 
the park is a part of the permanent, policy of the State." 
That provision of the Constitution was drafted by Frank 
S. Gardner and recommended by the New York Board of 
Trade and Transportation and other bodies interested in 
the preservation of the State forests, which would not only 
conserve the forest interests of the State, but provide a 
watershed large enough to supply a portion of the waters 
for the State canals, and possibly for some of the munici- 
palities of the State. At the time of the adoption of the 
constitutional amendment the extraordinary demand for 
waters sufficient to supply the barge canals w r as not fore- 
seen. Since the adoption of the amendment the State has 
gradually extended its holdings in forest lands and now 
owns approximately 1,500,626 acres in the Adirondacks and 
111,191 acres in the Catskills. The Adirondack Forest 
Preserve is large enough to supply the Erie canal from the 
Rome level east and west, and also the Champlain canal and 
the upper Hudson, and large storage reservoirs are being 
constructed for that purpose within reasonable proximity 
of the point in the line of the barge canal where the largest 
quantity of water is necessary; therefore, provision has 
been made in the acquisition of the immense tracts of wild 
lands in the Adirondacks for the accumulation of such 
waters. The State is, therefore, possessed, through the 
forethought of the advocates of the forest amendment of 
1894, of the indispensable means of making the barge canal 
possible, for without that supply of water a canal of the 
capacity of the barge canal could not be successfully 

Hon. Frank S. Gardner has steadfastly urged the exten- 
sion of the Forest Preserve, and in 1907 drafted a bill, 
which became law, creating a commission looking toward 
the conservation of the water powers of the State. That 
commission has been investigating that subject for two 

1. 160 N. Y., 225. 

"During the calendar year 1908, awards to the amount of $13,- 
421,752 were made, so that there are now in force contracts for 
building 194 miles of canal, the contract price for these being $35,- 
739.213, including all alterations to date. This means that nearly 


Section 12 of chapter 569 of the Laws of 1907, expressly 
excluded from the plan and scope of the duties prcscr: 1 ;. ' 
for the commissioners, any streams or water courses which 
supplied the canals of the State, or which might substan- 
tially diminish the water supply of such canals or the navi- 
gability thereof, or which would effect a diversion from any 
of the navigable waters of the State in sufficient quantities 
to interfere with the navigable rivers or water courses. 
Under this last act the investigations carried on by tin." 
commission have been conducted with a view of devising 
plans for the progressive development of the water powers 
of the State under State ownership, Control and maintenance 
for the public use and benefit, and for the increase of public 
revenue therefrom. This subject is outside of the navi- 
gable water courses of the State, but is one of the new- 
departures to conserve for power purposes the vast system 
of unused waters of such rivers as the upper Hudson, 
Genesee, Raquette, Delaware, Susquehanna, and other 
smaller rivers. 1 

It is possible that other exigencies may arise from. time 
to time justifying still further amendatory legislation. The 
substance, however, and general provisions of the original 
barge canal law have been adhered to and carefully pro- 
tected from insidious or open attack in or out of the Legis- 
lature. Barge canal construction has been delayed far be- 
yond what might reasonably be justified, owing to political 
and adverse influences, holding in check public officials 
charged with the mandatory duty of prosecuting the work. 
On December 1, 1908, 37 contracts had been let, involving 
a gross expenditure of $35,739,213, covering approximately 
one-third of the appropriation made for the barge canals. 
In his annual report for 1908, State Engineer Frederick 
Skene says: 

1. See 4th an. rept. State Water Supply Commission for 1909. 


one-half of the whole project, both in length and in cost of con- 
struction, is at present under contract. 

"Jn my report of a year ago I stated that probably before the 
close of 1908 plans for all important contracts on the canal would be 
finished. This prediction has been fulfilled and now the plans for 
all except some 47 miles of canal are completed, including the three 
branches — Erie, Champlain and Oswego, — and the plans for these 
47 miles are about 90 per cent, finished." 

The Superintendent of Public Works in his report sub- 
mitted to the Legislature on January 15, 1909, recommended 
the improvement of the Black River canal between Rome 
and Booneville, at an expense of $75,000, and that portion 
between Booneville and Lyons Falls, at an expense of 
$100,000, to put the latter into navigable condition, unless 
the same is to be abandoned. 1 

Some controversy has arisen with reference to the loca- 
tion of the barge canal between the Mohawk river and 
Wood creek, in the vicinity of the sites of Fort Stanwix 
and Fort Bull, and engineers have differed as to the feasi- 
bility of the route in that territory. Mr. Emil Low, member 
of the American Society of Civil Engineers, in a formal 
publication which appeared in the Rome Sentinel of July 
17, 1908, said that an early builder of the Erie canal, that 
eminent engineer, Benjamin Wright, clearly recognized the 
danger of building a canal through such treacherous ma- 
terial, and wisely kept the canal location to the northward 
of the swamp, avoiding it entirely. Mr. Low dissented 
from the opinion of those who proposed the construction of 
the canal to the west of Rome for a long distance above the 
drainage of the surrounding country, and advised that "a 
canal of the dimensions of the barge canal should be placed 
in the lowest part of the valley, where every advantage 
accrues, not the least of which is the water supply, instead 
of building it on a high level through swamps, with em- 
bankments towering above the surrounding surface and 
with nothing to build them of except muck, which would 
melt away like sugar as soon as the water was let in." He 

Sec report, Supt. of Public Works, 1909, p. 8. 


recommended the Oriskany or lower level, which would 
avoid expense of large embankments and less lockage. 

Several routes were surveyed for the barge canal be- 
tween the Mohawk and Wood creek. The last one require 
the removal of the New York Central tracks from the city 
of Rome nearly half a mile to the south of their present 
location and the construction of the canal north of the re- 
located New York Central tracks, but south and west of the 
present alignment of the Erie canal through the city of 
Rome on what is known as the 420-foot water level above 
the sea. 

The engineers, however, believe they have solved the 
difficulties attending the construction of the barge canal 
from the Mohawk river through Wood creek into OneicU 
lake and that the route finally decided upon will obviate 
heavy land damages in the vicinity of Rome, and that the 
storage reservoirs up the Trent river will largely drain the 
swamps in the vicinity of Rome and render the construction 
of the canal along the route proposed feasible and durable. 

The account of the portage at Fort Stanwix and Fort 
Bull and the efforts to establish water communication 
between the Mohawk and Wood creek, have already been 
stated, and the conditions were fully understood by the 
engineers in charge of the barge canal construction. Other 
sections of the route have given rise to differences of 
opinion on the part of engineers in charge of the work, but 
they have finally reached substantial unanimity of opinion 
on all the problems that have thus far confronted them. It 
is to be expected that a work of such magnitude would give 
rise to many new problems and set in operation various 
courses of reasoning in their solution, and that very condi- 
tion is one of the safeguards in skilful and permanent canal 

Before the dimensions of the locks in the barge canal 
were decided upon the great Ymuiden locks of the North 
Sea canal were constructed, large enough to admit boats 
442 feet long, of 52 feet beam, and of 23 feet draft. These 
were to be operated and lighted by electric power, and were 
among the largest and most modern type of large canal 


locks, which involved some problems similar to those 
encountered in lock construction on the barge canal. 1 

The route prescribed' in the original act was modified 
pursuant to the provisions of chapter 710 of the laws of 
1907, and chapter 508 of the laws of 1908, between the 
Seneca and Clyde rivers, so as to approach the outlet of 
Cayuga and Seneca lakes which, it was assumed, would 
ultimately be brought into barge canal communication with 
the new main barge canals. The route through the Monte- 
zuma marshes, from the inception of barge canal construc- 
tion in the Stare, has been attended with serious engineering 
problems, owing to the nature of the soil and the annual 
inundation of that territory. It was thought that if the 
course of the Seneca river were followed from Three River 
Point south to the outlet of the Clyde and the course of that 
river followed westward, much of the flooded territory 
would be drained by the dredging of those two natural 
water-courses and the bed of the canal would be at the 
lowest point of the watershed and less subject to serious 
damage from flood conditions. 

The conditions at Lockport and Cohoes have been thor- 
oughly studied by the engineers in charge and the great cuts 
between the Hudson and the Mohawk north of Cohoes for 
the construction of the large locks in that portion of the 
canal are some indication of the magnitude of the under- 
taking where j6.J per cent, of the prism excavation and 
construction were completed on December 1, 1908. 

On January 1, 1909, there were 157 miles of barge canal 
construction under contract on the Erie, 35 miles on the 
Champlain, and two miles on the Oswego, aggregating 194 
miles of barge canal construction in progress. The entire 
mileage to be built is approximately 444 miles. 

In the building of the barge canals a reduction has been 
made in the number of locks on the Erie from 72 to 34, and 
there are but 20 locks on the Champlain and Oswego canals. 
These locks are all of uniform size and have an available 
length of 300 to 310 feet with a maximum length of 328 

1. See " Commercial Relations of the United States" for 1902. 


feet and a width of 45 feet, and a depth of 11 feet of water 
over the mitre siils, with a lift of from 6 to 4o>< feci 
Each chamber will be filled and emptied by two culver: , 
running inside the walls and connected with the chamber by 
numerous small openings, whose total area exceeds that of 
the culverts by 30 to 50 per cent. The valves are of the 
plain counter-weighted lift gate type, moving on four rollers 
at each gate. Concrete is used in the masonry work. The 
lock gates are made of steel of the mitering single, skin 
girder type, carrying the principal load as beams. The 
gates are operated by electricity derived from dynamos and 
turbines at the locks. 

At Little Falls is being constructed one of the highest, 
if not the highest, lift lock in the world, with a difference 
of 403^ feet between the surfaces of the upper and lower 
pools. The lock at the lower gate is of the counter-weighted 
lift type. To avoid the necessity of building a gate to reach 
from the bottom of the lock to above the water of the upper 
pool a concrete beam extending across the pool far enough 
above the level of the water to admit of the passage of boats 
is being constructed. The upper portion of the gate when 
lowered will rest against this beam. This gate will be of 
the "Stoney" type, running upon tracks in the walls. The 
lower part of the north wall of the lock at Little Falls rests 
upon natural rock which has necessitated the use of the 
siphon principle in emptying the lock as the culvert will be 
several feet above the port pipes. 

To economize in the use of water required to operate 
this lock, provision has been made for building a side pool 
on the side of the lock where the water can be stored and 
used for filling the lock a second time. 

The great lock on the Oswego canal is filled and emptied 
by use of the siphon culvert which curves into a siphon neck 
with the addition of an operating tank, pipes and cylinders. 

Noble E. Whit ford, in his history of the canals already 
cited, thus describes the operation of the siphon locks : 

"The siphon culvert is a device for filling and emptying lock 
chambers without the use of valves in the culverts, and is founded 
on the ordinary principles of siphons. The upper and lower end of 


each culvert is formed like a siphon. By exhausting the air from 
the neck the water is sucked up into it and flows over into the lower 
portion; by admitting the air again the water sinks back and the 
flow stops. The vacuum needed to exhaust the air is produced in a ' ' 

chamber placed in any convenient position, and connected with the 
upper and lower pools. To operate the system, this chamber is first 
filled from the upper pool, and the connection is then closed. The 
pipe to the lower pool is then opened and the weight of the water in 
the chamber thus becomes suspended several feet above its natural 
level. The air-pipe from the neck of the siphon is then put in con- 
nection with the chamber; the air is sucked out, and as the water 
starts flowing the pipe is closed again. When the discharge has done 
its work, or if it is desired at any moment to cut off the flow, the 
two-way valve on the air-pipe is opened the other way, and the free 
air rushes into the neck again and stops the water. 

"This system was first introduced in 1896 on the Elbe-Trave 
canal, near Hamburg, and all the locks of the canal, seven in num- 
ber, were fitted with it. Some years' trial having proved its success 
it was introduced on the Teltow canal, and is being applied to other 
locks now building. For operating the siphons there is no machinery 
except the valves for the vacuum chamber, and a two-way valve 
for each siphon, together with the necessary mercury gauges. A 
turn of the wrist opens a valve, and about twenty seconds later the 
flow of water appears in the chamber. On turning the valve in the 
opposite direction, the flow ceases in about the same time. The only 
objection seems to be that the flow cannot be stopped for an acci- 
dent in the lock quite as quickly as with ordinary methods. The 
difference, however, would hardly be more than five or ten seconds. 

"The advantages of the system, briefly summarized, are the re- 
duction of the number of moving parts, the dispensing with all 
motors and similar delicate machinery, together with the necessity 
of obtaining power to operate them, and a cost no greater and prob- 
ably less than that for locks of standard design." 

In modern canal construction in Europe and America not 
the least of the difficult engineering problems involved have 
been 'the designing and construction of locks of various 
types to answer the demands of commerce and to overcome 
natural difficulties in the way of canal construction, such 
as the rapids of the Rhone, the heavy tidal variations in the 
North Sea and Manchester ship canals, the falls at Cohoes, 
at Little Falls and at Lockport. These problems have been 


rendered still more difficult by reason of rock formation in 
some localities, restricting the building to certain types o\ 

The construction of dams has been attended with no less 
difficulty as may be judged from the great Schutzenwehr 
at Herbrum, regulating the flow of the waters of the Ems, 
the Moldau movable dam in Bohemia regulating flow in that 
river, and the Assuan dam regulating the flow of the waters 
of the Nile. 

Some of the difficulties in the canalization of the Mohawk 
river were foreseen by Daniel Spraker, jr., and mentioned 
in his circular. Among them was the danger of annual 
overflows and fields of ice carried down at springtime, 
liable to injure if not destroy, permanent structures along 
the canalized river. 

The engineers have devoted much time to the considera- 
tion of the Mohawk and the type of dams to be constructed 
to withstand the annual overflows and ice gorges of that 
turbulent river. Mr. Whitford thus describes the movable 
dams in the process of construction along the Mohawk : 

"Between Schenectady and Little Falls there will he eight dams 
of the bridge-and-gate type. The advantage of using movable dams 
instead of the ordinary fixed dams is that there will be practically 
no flooding except of a few islands and of a small amount of land 
close to the upper dams. Rises will pass without causing other 
damage than would have occurred had no dams been built, and all 
complications with the railways and much of that with the towns 
will be avoided. 

"Concerning the type of dam which is being used, it may be said 
that of the four approved types of closures, the drum and bear-trap, 
the Chanoine wicket, the needle, and gates and curtains, the first 
mentioned can be used only when a good artificial head is available. 
They are, moreover, expensive, and while the Dcsfontaines drum has 
been a success, the later modifications have yet to prove their worth. 
The bear-trap is open to similar objections, and is too easily put out 
of order to be suitable to the present case. 

"The needle dam has been used successfully with depths of thir- 
teen feet on the sill, and two have recently been built for depths 
of eighteen feet. Such sizes, however, can only be used in connec- 
tion with a weir, as the needles are too large for use in regulation, 


a sui when removed have to be rehandled and stored on the bank. 
The labor of operation is considerably increased by the number of 
pieces to be cared for, and the high-lift clams of this type have not 
yet passed the experimental stage. 

"The Chanoine wicket is much more compact, as it is self-con- 
tained, and for moderate depths and rapid streams it has proved 
very successful. For the depths desired, however, it would prove 
too cumbersome; the maximum height of wicket used heretofore 
has been about fourteen feet above the sill with a width of four feet, 
while it is proposed here to have depths from fifteen to nineteen 
feet on the sills. A wicket of proportionate size would be too dan- 
gerous to handle except under a small head. 

"The structure best suited to the conditions is a curtain or a gate 
dam, and the latter type of closure is to be preferred, as it is simpler, 
less liable to injury and more water-tight With gates a close and 
easy regulation can be obtained, and they appear to be suited to 
carry any head The pieces move at right angles to the water pres- 
sure, and not against it or with it, as do the other types, and this 
feature permits less violence of motion and consequent danger of 

"The conditions imposed are somewhat unusual, and have there- 
fore required special treatment. The depth of channel, for instance, 
is unprecedented, the 103^ foot channel of the lower Seine being the 
nearest approaching it. The dams have, therefore, to hold up a large 
head of water on porous foundations, and they must afford a sure 
means of regulating the pools so as to keep the desired depths and 
yet prevent flooding. They are designed to require the minimum of 
labor in operation as under ordinary conditions the size of the parts 
would render this laborious. 

"In the bridge dam, the type adopted, the closure is made in the 
usual way with bridge-gate dams by gates with rollers moving up 
and down girders or frames hinged to the bridge above. The rollers 
are attached to the gates and travel in channels riveted to the up- 
stream face of the frames. The structure includes only such ele- 
ments as have been successfully used before. Their combination, 
however, has involved certain modifications as follows : 

"The frame supports are spaced 15 feet apart instead of eight 
feet, the maximum hitherto used in river dams; the gates are thirty 
feet long instead of yYz feet long and they are used like overhanging 
beams, or cantilevers, instead of being supported at their ends. 

"The use of the cantilever principle has its counterpart in Chanoine 
wicker dams, the portions of which above the horse are cantilevers 
pure and simple, and run to lengths of overhang of six or seven 


feet as against 7H feet here. The advantages of the application to 

the proposed dams are that 12 inches to 15 inches I-beams will 

support the plating, whereas 20 inches or 24 inches would be needed 

if supported at the ends; that standard panels and framing can be 

used for the bridges ; and that each frame in case of emergency car. 

be detached without interference with the rest. 

"The general advantages of the proposed arrangements are that 

the moveable parts of the dam are reduced to a few pieces and the 

operation will be correspondingly simple; the frames and gates are 

necessarily of great strength; and a standard type can be applied, 

with local modifications, to all the dams. Thus in the eight dams 

there are only four different lengths of bridge span, viz., 150 feet, 180 

feet, 210 feet and 240 feet." 


The delays in barge canal construction are in a measure 
due to the political changes that have taken place in the 
administrative and engineering- departments of the State 
government since the barge canal law became operative. 
Unfortunately, under the existing provisions of the Consti- 
tution, it is not possible to create a commission charged with 
the responsibility of barge canal construction, because the 
supervision of all canal work is expressly vested in the 
Superintendent of Public Works and the State Engineer 
and Surveyor. Accordingly, whenever there is a change in 
the office of State Engineer, who under the barge canal law 
is expressly charged with the duty of preparing plans and 
specifications and making estimates under the direction of 
the Canal Board, there is necessarily an unavoidable delay. 
Time is required to familiarize incoming engineers with the 
status of contracts, and with the engineering problems in- 
volved in the progress of the work. To some extent this 
accounts for the want of progress in barge canal construc- 
tion, but as the work advances and more contracts are let, 
there may be fewer delays in canal construction. The mag- 
nitude of the work, however, is so great, and the territory 
traversed involves so many engineering problems in carry- 
ing across the State a canal with a prism having a depth of 
12 feet and a minimum bottom width of 75 feet, that 
changes in route and modifications in plans and specifica- 
tions have been found necessary. Furthermore, many of 


the questions of lock and dam construction are novel, and 
cannot he hastily determined without possible loss to the 
State. All these matters and others have operated to retard 

In a speech in the Senate on January 20, 1909, on the 
confirmation of Frederick C. Stevens as Superintendent of 
Public Works, Senator John Raines, in answer to criticism 
made in the press and elsewhere, said : 

"There has been but one instance in the history of the whole 
work where plans and specifications have been approved, in which 
the Superintendent of Public Works has not speedily placed the 
work under contract, and that is in the case of contract No. 20, 
which covers 58 miles of dredging in the Mohawk river, at an esti- 
mated cost of more than $4,000,000, and which, for the third time 
was advertised in September of last year without receiving a single 
bid. Immediately on ascertaining that no bids had been offered, the 
Superintendent of Public Works addressed a letter to the State 
Engineer and Surveyor and to the Board of Advisory Engineers, 
requesting recommendations as to what course should be pursued 
with reference to this contract. Inasmuch as no recommendations 
had been received, the Superintendent, on November 21, 1908, again 
addressed the State Engineer and the advisory engineers, calling 
their attention to his previous communication and to the fact that 
no advice had been received, and giving notice that unless specific 
recommendations were received by November 25th, he would pro- 
ceed to re-advertise the work in its existing form. He did so re- 
advertise the work, two bids being received on December 22nd last. 
The lowest bid being more than ten per cent, in excess of the Engi- 
neer's estimate, the contract cannot be awarded, excepting with the 
approval of the State Engineer and the Canal Board. Therefore, 
the only delay in this case is such as conditions have made neces- 

In the annual report of the Advisory Board of Consult- 
ing Eng'ineers for the years 1907-1908, as well as in the 
monthly bulletins issued by the State Engineer and Sur- 
veyor, may be found detailed information as to the progress 
of barge canal construction and the incidental problems 
arising from time to time in relation thereto. There was a 
disposition on the part of citizens opposed to the canal pro- 
ject to delay the work by appeal to the courts to test the 


constitutionality of the barge canal act, and by advising 
delay on the part of those charged with the administration 
of the canal law. After an exhaustive hearing before the 
Attorney General, Julius M. Mayer, at which former Chiet 
Judge Charles Andrews and Hon. Elihu Root appeared on 
behalf of the applicants, and John G. Milburn, George 
Clinton and Abel E. Blackmar appeared in opposition, he 
rendered his decision on March 8, 1905, sustaining the con- 
stitutionality of the barge canal law, and denying the appli- 
cation for permission to bring in the name of the people of 
the State of New York an action to test the constitutionality 
of that act. 1 No further suits have been brought to test the 
constitutionality of the act, and public sentiment has 
steadily grown in support of the measure, until there ap- 
pears to be no further disposition to delay the progress of 
the work, which under favorable conditions may now go 
forward much more rapidly than it has hitherto. 

It is the history of nearly all great public improvements 
that much more time is required in their consummation than 
was originally contemplated. That was the experience in 
the building of the original Erie canal, and is likely to be 
repeated in the building of the barge canals. The present 
Canal Board, however, consisting of the Hon. Horace 
White, Lieutenant Governor ; Samuel Koenig, Secretary of 
State; Charles H. Goss, Comptroller; Thomas B. Dunn, 
Treasurer; Edward R. O'Malley, Attorney General ; Frank 
M. Williams, State Engineer and Surveyor ; and Frederick 
C. Stevens, Superintendent of Public W r orks, have organ- 
ized and resolved to expedite the work as much as possible, 
having 6ue regard for the condition of the plans, specifica- 
tions and estimates, of sections of the work not yet let, and 
the recommendations of the Advisory Board of Consulting 
Engineers thereon. All departments are working in har- 

Public sentiment has steadily grown from the inception 
of the barge canal project, and several outlying counties 
look forward to the time when they may be brought into 

See Opinions of the Attorney General for 1905, pp. 187-201. 


water communication with the barge canal trunk lines and 
with the Hudson river. Among these are the counties on 
and about Seneca and Cayuga lakes, as well as those bor- 
dering on the Black river and Black river canal, and sec- 
tions of the State bordering on the Delaware & Hudson 

A similar experience followed the passage of the original 
canal bill in 1817, which led to the enactment of an omnibus 
canal law authorizing the construction of various lateral 
canals. Some of them were in fact constructed. 

As the population becomes denser and the transfer and 
distribution of products more congested, the return to water- 
ways as a means of freight transportation will become a 
matter of necessity, as in France, Germany. Austria and the 

This historical review has demonstrated that New York's 
commercial ascendancy is based on a broad, intelligent con- 
ception of its natural advantages for handling the vast com- 
merce passing between the high seas and the Great Lakes. 
This conception has dominated its successive generations of 
inhabitants, who have been wise enough to foresee and 
utilize these natural advantages to the upbuilding of the 
most powerful State of the Union. New York's commercial 
ascendancy, therefore, rests primarily on the intelligence 
and enterprise of its inhabitants : and as long as these 
basic principles continue to shape the policy of the State in 
legislation, in commerce, in the industries, in agriculture 
and in the arts, it will undoubtedly continue the imperial 
State of the Union. Its natural waterways 

"... as the seas to which they go, 
Are nature's bounty; 'tis of more renown 
To make a river than to build a town." 1 

The history of its natural and artificial waterways fornix 
a large part of the history of the State, and their develop- 
ment and improvement have engaged the attention of its 
inhabitants for more than a century. 

1. Waller. 


The servitude of these great waterways has been con- 
tinuous and of inestimable value in the saving of transpor- 
tation charges and in building up the commerce of thi< 
State. No one is so reckless as to undertake to estimate the 
direct and indirect benefits that have thus accrued to the 
State during the last 125 years; and who is bold enough to 
predict the benefits that will accrue to the State with its 
completed barge canal system in full operation, carrying » 
considerable portion of the vast tonnage passing to and 

from the hiirh seas and the Great Lakes ! 

In a recent address before the Finance Committee of the 
Senate, Hon. Francis Lynde Stetson said: "Nothing has 
contributed more to the development of the entire State 
than the construction of its canals, which brought into com- 
munication the waters of the Great Lakes and of Lake 
Champlain with those of the Hudson river, thus completing 
a magnificent system of waterways throughout the State." 

The commercial supremacy of New York over that of 
other States is builded on a broad, intelligent and pro- 
gressive policy, conceived of and formulated through the 
years by gifted, far-seeing, public-spirited citizens, qui 
possunt rerum cognoscere causas, and put into practical 
operation through the indestructible energy of the enter- 
prising people, who have from time to time constituted the 
State. New York, the emporium of the western hemi- 
sphere, did not spring full-grown, like Aphrodite, from the 
foam of the sea, but more like Venice, that romantic city 
of the Renaissance, whose merchant fleets under the saga- 
cious policy of her doges transported the commerce of the 
Adriatic and drew much of the trade from the Mediter- 
ranean, which has been styled "the sea of civilization." l 
But "Venice fell at the foot of the cradle of America like 
Iphigenia at the foot of the cradle of Greece," says Caste- 
lar, and her doges in their gilded barges ceased their an- 
nual ceremonies to symbolize the union of Venice and the 
Adriatic by dropping golden rings into its waters and by 
plighting their troth in the words, "We espouse thee, O 

1. Castelar's " Old Rome and New Italy," p. 136. 


Sea ! in token of true and eternal sovereignty." That float- 
ing city with its palaces of art, its superb cathedral, and its 
stately and beautifully frescoed council halls, wherein were 
resolved the important affairs of the Republic, though in 
its decadence, reminds us of its achievements in commerce 
which were worldwide and conducive to and no less remark- 
able than its ideals and attainments in the fine arts. 

The decline of Venice was followed by the rise of Ant- 
werp and Amsterdam, and the ultimate commercial ascend- 
ancy of New York, which not only is drawing unto itself 
the argosies from across the high seas, laden with the 
products of many climes, but also a large part of the vast 
tonnage of the Great Lakes over the waterways of the 
State. The growth of the emporium of the western hemi- 
sphere has been exponential of the marvelous commercial 
development of this "noble and puissant nation," founded 
on a much more liberal and enduring basis than that empire, 
of whose people and dominion the poet said : 

"His ego nee metas rerum nee tempora pono : 
Imperium sine fine dedi." 1 

The Colossus of Rhodes, the Pharos of Alexandria and 
the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor are some expres- 
sions of the commercial enterprise of great states, the first 
of which gave to the world a maritime code; the second 
maintained for thousands of years a vast population largely 
dependent upon the commerce of the sea and the Nile, 
which also watered its grainfields ; and the third is forging 
forward to the position of the first commercial nation of 
the world. 

The phenomenal growth of New York is due to the tides 
of commerce that have surged through it, as the gateway of 
the nation. It will soon pass London, if it has not already 
done so, in its foreign and domestic commerce and become 
the emporium of the world. The State's waterways have 
largely contributed to this result, and merit the continued 
consideration of its enterprising and progressive people, for 
waterways are nature's highways, affording to all the most 

i. Virgil's -^Eneid, book I., lines 78, 79. 


economical means of transportation known to man. The 
marvelous growth of the cities along its natural and arti- 
ficial waterways are the best evidence of the value of this 
means of transportation which is again generally recognized 
as indispensable in the development of a state and a nation. 
The revival of this economic principle is apparent in the 
movement already assuming national proportions. 

Five national river and harbor congresses have convened 
in Washington, consisting of delegates from the Atlantic. 
Gulf, Mississippi, Great Lakes, Ohio, Missouri and Pacific 
Coast districts, to consider the question of river and harbor 
improvement, and waterway development in this country. 
The last congress was held in Washington from December 
8 to ii, 1908, and was attended by upwards of 4,000 dele- 
gates. It was presided over by the Hon. Joseph E. Ransdell 
of Lake Providence, La. In the list of vice-presidents is Mr. 
William B. Jones of Albany, and of the directorate are 
Edward H. Butler of Buffalo, Olin J. Stevens of New 
York, and Robert Downey of Oswego. This congress 
adopted resolutions, which were presented to the President, 
the Vice-President and Speaker of the House of Represen- 
tatives, in favor of the "issuance of bonds to the amount of 
five hundred millions, to be sold from time to time, as may 
be necessary to improve the deserving waterways of the 
country, that have been examined and favorably reported 
upon the U. S. Corps of Engineers. The bonds are to 
be issued under the same provisions as those authorizing 
the construction of the Panama Canal." The Government, 
however, is not likely to authorize any such bond issue until 
it establishes and puts into effect a permanent waterway 

The delegates from the State of New York at the 
National River and Harbors Congress in Washington, on 
December 9, 1908, organized by the election of Hon. John 
D. Kernan, chairman, and S. C. Mead, of the Merchants' 
Association of New York, secretary, and Bert L. Jones of 
Buffalo, treasurer; and the chairman was authorized to 
appoint a committee to formulate plans for a New Y'ork 
State Waterways Association. The chairman nominated the 


following gentlemen as that committee: Henry W. Hill of 
Buffalo, chairman; William H. Gratwick of Buffalo, 
Patrick W. Cullman of Oswego, Thomas Spratt of Ogdens- 
bnrg, John R. Myers of Rouse's Point, William B. Jones of 
Albany, Gustav H. Schwab, Frank Brainerd, Olin J 
Stevens, and Robert J. MacFarland, all of New York. The 
chairman and secretary of the conference were made ex- 
ofhcio members of the committee. This committee had a 
meeting in Albany on January 13th, and another meeting 
in New York City on January 20th and 21st, and made 
some progress in formulating plans for a State Waterways 
Association. They were invited and accepted the invitation 
to meet with delegates from various parts of the State at a 
conference held under the auspices of the Manufacturers' 
Association of New York, at the Manufacturers' Building 
in Brooklyn, January 21 and 22, 1909. That conference 
was well attended from various parts of the State. The 
address of welcome was made by Andrew F. Wilson, presi- 
dent of the Manufacturers' Association of New York. 
Addresses were also made by the writer, on "The Water- 
ways of New York" ; by Hon. John D. Kernan on "The 
Position of New York State towards National Waterway 
Development" ; by the Hon. George Clinton, chairman of 
the International Lake Level Commission, on "Lake 
Levels"; and others on kindred topics, including one by 
William B. Jones, secretary of the Albany Chamber of 
Commerce, on "Hudson River Improvement" ; by Jared T. 
Newman of Ithaca on "The Necessity of connecting Cayuga 
and Seneca Lakes with the Barge Canal"; by Norman D. 
Fish of Tonawanda on "The Necessity of Improving the 
Terminal Facilities of the Erie Canal" ; and by Captain 
Charles Campbell of the Lighterage Association of the 
Port of New York, on "The Disabilities and Possibilities of 
the Port of New York," in the course of which he quoted 
the following statement made by Erastus Wiman, before 
the New r York Commerce Commission : "The purposes of a 
terminal are three : The first is receipt, the second is stor- 
age, and the third is shipment. Where these are united as 
at Newport News, Baltimore and New Orleans in the 


South, and at Montreal, Boston and Portland in the North, 
a perfect terminal exists; but in the proportion that they 
are separated, as they are in New York, that is an imperfect 
terminal. That difficulty has created what is called a 
'lighterage arbitrary/ and it is the most arbitrary thing in 
the harbor of New York. The lighterage arbitrary, the cost 
of transfer from the place of receipt to the place of storage 
and the place of shipment — that lighterage arbitrary, after 
years and years of experience, is found to be necessary on 
every pound of stuff that comes into New York, it must be 
so; it is a lighterage arbitrary." In speaking of the loca- 
tion of terminals he said on "points of vantage" : 

i st. They must be in a location removed from the present con- 
gested centers of shipping in the harbor. 

2nd. They must be adaptable to the most economic construction 
within their area of all the essentials of perfect terminals, namely. 
points of receipt, points of delivery, and ample storage facilities, with 
the most improved modern appliances for the trans-shipment of car- 
goes, import, export or domestic. 

3rd. Their capabilities of sheltering the craft within their con- 
fines and thus minimizing the damage caused by the several elements, 
with which all shipping has to contend, such as heavy seas, ice, 
strong tides, etc. 

4th. So situated that the ocean carrier can dock or sail under 
her own steam, or warp with her winches, without the additional ex- 
pense entailed by hiring the assistance of tugs. 

Addresses were also made by William Simmons on 
"Rate Discriminations against the Port of New York," by 
Alexander R. Smith of New York on "State Canals and 
what is needed to make them Efficient." The Hon. Joseph 
E. Ransdell spoke on "The National River and Harbor Con- 
gress, its Aims and Objects." The Hon. J. Hampton Moore, 
M. C, spoke on the "Atlantic Deeper Waterways," and the 
Hon. O. P. Austin of Washington delivered an illustrated 
lecture on "Modern European Transportation Methods/' 

This conference organized a permanent New York State 
Waterways Association, and elected the following officers 
for the first year : President, Robert J. MacFarland of 
Brooklyn ; first vice-president, Senator Henry W. Hill of 


Buffalo; second vice-president, Hon. John D. Kernan of 
Utica; third vice-president, ex-Comptroller Edward M. 
Grout of Brooklyn; secretary, Hon. Frank S. Gardner of 
New York; and treasurer, Hon. Frank S. Witherbee of 
Port Henry. The executive committee of the association 
consists of Robert J. MacFarland, Henry W. Hill, John D. 
Kernan, Edward M. Grout, Frank S. Gardner, Frank S. 
Witherbee, William H. Gratwick, Patrick W. Cullinan, 
Thomas Spratt, John R. Myers, William B. Jones, Gustav 
H. Schwab, Frank Brainerd, Henry A. Meyer, Olin J. 
Stevens, S. C. Mead, Oscar S. Foster of Utica, Roy S. 
Smith of Elmira, Jared T. Newman of Ithaca, James T. 
Hoile of Brooklyn', and L. B. Green of Patchogue. 

The New York State Waterways Association declared 
its purpose in substance to be, so far as lies in its power, 
to advocate and urge upon the Congress of the United 
States the just claims of every navigable water within the 
State of New York, the improvement of which would be a 
proper undertaking by, and the cost of improving which 
would be a proper charge upon, the Government of the 
United States. It further declared that while it is mani- 
festly important that there should be united action so far as 
practicable, no support either from any locality or of any 
member of Congress will be accepted on the condition of 
giving the endorsement of this conference or of the State 
Association to be organized for any project which is not in 
itself meritorious and properly chargeable to the national 
treasury or to the State or locality respectively. Upon this 
just and sound principle the New York State Waterways 
Association will stand before the country and before Con- 
gress and the State Legislature, and will concede that 
which is just to others, and demand that which is just to 
our own State. The organization of the permanent Water- 
ways Association is a natural outgrowth of years of agita- 
tion on the subject of transportation by water in this State, 
and in accord with a movement well nigh national, to secure 
better facilities in transportation to supply the demands of 
the ever-growing commercial and industrial development of 
the nation. The New York State Waterways Association 


is representative of the various commercial bodies, and al! 
sections of the State. 

Such improvement in the natural waterways of the State 
as that proposed in the upper Hudson from the city of 
Hudson to Waterford by the Federal Government falls 
within the cognizance of the New York State Waterways 
Association. That improvement has been strongly urged 
by the cities of Albany and Troy, the data for a portion of 
which are set forth in a memorial on the canalization of the 
Hudson river between Troy and Waterford, to the Congress 
of the United States, prepared by the Hon. Frederick 
Skene. The movement contemplates the deepening of the 
Hudson river from the city of Hudson north of the city 
of Troy to the depth of 22 feet, with a width of 400 feet, 
which will enable coastwise steamers to sail up the Hudson 
as far as the city of Troy, and will obviate the necessity of 
the State deepening the Hudson river between those points 
for the barge canal, which will result in a saving of a 
million or more of dollars. 

The revival of interest in canal construction and water- 
way improvement, primarily for commercial purposes and 
industrial development, is such that the time will undoubt- 
edly come when the lakes and rivers of the State will again 
be brought into navigable communication. Not only will 
the servitude of these waterways be generally recognized as 
of prime importance in the upbuilding of the State, but they 
are a resort for purposes of health and pleasure, enlivened 
by the numerous motor boats and other w r ater craft that ply 
on their waters. Central New York, with its picturesque 
lakes, is already the abode of a prosperous people, and is 
approaching in celebrity the lake region of England. The 
State waters are not unlike those of the Fatherland pic- 
tured by Goethe in his "Faust," where he says: 

"How the wide water, far as we can see, 
Is joyous with innumerable boats." 

The majestic St. Lawrence, explored by Jacques Cartier 
in 1535, is already the resort of pleasure seekers whose well- 
equipped yachts, swift motor boats and American canoes 


have made it and its Thousand Islands attractive to the 
citizens of many states. The far-famed Ontario was a 
highway for traders, colonizers and early commerce long 
before there was a Utica, a Syracuse, a Rochester or a 
Buffalo. Over its waters passed expedition after expedi- 
tion from pre-historic times to the War of 1812, when 
Sodus Bay, Sackett's Harbor, Oswego and Niagara rivers 
became household names. 

The tempestuous Lake Erie was navigated by Indians in 
canoes before it was by the whites, whose early exploits 
thereon were not only hazardous but quite generally disas- 
trous, as appears in the following brief narrative. The 
first sailing vessel on the upper lakes was the brigantine 
"Le Griffon," called by the Indians "The Great Wooden 
Canoe," of 60 tons burthei , launched near the mouth of 
Cayuga creek, the